Chattanooga HIV/AIDS symposium pushes for more testing

Chattanooga HIV/AIDS symposium pushes for more testing

June 27th, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in News

Jerry Evans, assistant executive director of Chattanooga Cares, speaks Tuesday as Susan Davis, left, listens at the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga during an HIV/AIDS prevention symposium.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

FREE TESTING

HIV/AIDS testing will be conducted at the following locations today in recognition of National HIV Testing Day. All test results are expected within 20 minutes.

• Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department, 921 E. Third St., 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

• Chattanooga Cares, 13 Kent St. W., 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Chattanooga Urban League, 730 M.L. King Blvd., 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga wants to not only prevent people from getting HIV/AIDS, but also encourage better health maintenance when people know they have it.

The league surveyed 700 people in the past year and discovered that more than 56 percent said they had not been tested for HIV/AIDS in the past two years.

"If you are sexually active, you need to know your status so that you can protect yourself and those you love," said James McKissic, the Urban League's chief operating officer.

To help people learn their status and in honor of National HIV Testing Day, Chattanooga Cares, a local HIV/AIDS advocacy group, is conducting confidential HIV/AIDS testing today at its offices as well as the Urban League and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.

Southeast Tennessee Council for HIV/AIDS Care and Prevention employees Cathrine Bays and Jennifer A. Martin said they'll be on M.L. King Boulevard today, trying to convince drivers to pull over at the Urban League offices and get tested for HIV. Door prizes and other incentives will be available to anyone being tested today, Martin said.

On Tuesday, the Urban League called together more than two dozen AIDS outreach organizations and heath care officials to be part of its 2012 Health Symposia. The groups exchanged information and discussed ideas such as HIV testing in bars, at emergency rooms and in jail, steps that could lead to more people being tested.

The Urban League plans to use the information to write a policy that encourages more HIV/AIDS testing and to post the policy to the league's website in July, said McKissic.

The league also offers policies for healthier eating and wiping out obesity on its website.

People assume when they go to the doctor for bloodwork that they are automatically screened for HIV/AIDS, but that's not so, said Jerry Evans, assistant executive director of Chattanooga Cares. People must specifically ask for the test, he said.

Chattanooga Cares abides by all Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act laws, officials said, and only the health department and people administering the test know the results of a person's test.

The health department uses the information to track down others the patient might have infected and to track down who may have infected the patient. The health department does not give the infected person's name, Evans said.

The purpose for tracking is to make sure infected people are getting proper medical care, he said, because the healthier they are, the less chance they have of transmitting the disease to others.

And those with HIV/AIDS no longer must take 25 pills to stay alive, he said, some people who carry the disease only take one pill.

Follow the latest Chattanooga news on Facebook.