AIDS Healthcare Foundation hosts free HIV testing event in Jackson

A crowd gathered in Pittman Park on Sunday afternoon as the Jackson community gathered to recognize National HIV Testing Day with a community block party.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the world’s largest nonprofit HIV / AIDS service provider, partnered with Jackson-based Xperience Jxn Entertainment Group and the Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition to host the event. Aimed to help reduce any stigma associated with HIV testing, the event featured educational games about HIV and AIDS and offered free, rapid and confidential testing.

Eight tents were set up in the shade as children ran from tent to tent to participate in the various activities, while people walked quietly holding blue and red snow cones. Families could stop in the tents to learn anecdotes about HIV and AIDS.

The Jackson community has been invited to stop by Pittman Park on Sunday, June 27, 2021 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the world's largest non-profit provider of HIV / AIDS services , Xperience Jxn Entertainment Group, and Jackson's Black Leadership AIDS Crisis.  The Coalition hosted a community block party to educate about HIV / AIDS, start conversations with the community, and provide free, prompt and confidential HIV testing with the mobile testing unit.

Imara Canady, national director of communications and community engagement for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said the event was a way to start having informal conversations to reduce barriers preventing people from getting tested for HIV.

“This year commemorates the 40th anniversary of the first recognition of what we now know to be AIDS, so it means we’ve been on this journey for 40 years,” Canady said. “So, it’s time for us to come together as one community and change that trajectory of what will happen over the next 40 years.”

According to data collected by the Mississippi State Department of Health, Mississippi has the 8th highest rate of HIV diagnoses among all adults and the 6th highest rate of AIDS diagnoses.

Data also shows that in 2018, black Mississippians made up 37.4% of the state’s population, but made up 72.9% of people living with HIV and 76% of new diagnoses.

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Sharon Brown, Mississippi State HIV consultant for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said one of the things the organization is trying to do is get health care providers to provide regular HIV tests. HIV during annual examinations.

“When you go to the doctor they automatically do certain tests, so it would be great if the state of Mississippi started having HIV as a preventive measure,” she said, adding that the organization hopes to start talking. with some legislators and the state. Department of Health.

During the event, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation had a mobile testing unit onsite so everyone could get a free test. The rapid tests provided results within 30 seconds to a minute. For anyone who might have tested positive, the staff were there for them, providing comfort and resources.

Mississippi Representative De'Keither Stamps receives a free, rapid HIV test at an event in Pittman Park on Sunday, June 27, 2021, aimed at educating the Jackson community about HIV / AIDS, promoting a conversation to reduce stigma and provide free, rapid and confidential HIV tests thanks to a mobile testing unit that was on site.

Yolanda Singleton, CEO of Xperience Jxn, said one of the goals of the event was to help people understand that HIV is no longer a death sentence. Rather, there are drugs for those who test positive to live a long life. Plus, there are lots of fundings, Singleton said, to help people financially.

The first 100 people tested also received a free voucher for a ticket to a reunion concert on August 28 featuring hip-hop artists including 8 Ball & MJG, Run B, Scarface, Mystikal, Ying Yang Twins and Queen Boyz. .

Percy Glasper, 45, was one of the many community members who attended the event. He said it was a positive impact for the community as it gives the opportunity to educate and start conversations.

“I decided to get tested because it’s something I wanted to do,” Glasper said. “And let others know that it’s cool to go get tested; it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Tonisha Brown, 28, was passing by when she saw the eight tents set up, along with the food trucks and the mobile test unit, when she decided to stop.

“If you love yourself, you will be tested,” she said.

The Jackson community has been invited to stop by Pittman Park on Sunday, June 27, 2021, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the world's largest non-profit provider of HIV / AIDS services globally, Jackson-based Xperience Jxn Entertainment Group, and Black Leadership AIDS.  Crisis Coalition hosted a community block party to educate about HIV / AIDS, start conversations with the community, and provide free, prompt and confidential HIV testing with the mobile testing unit.

Did you miss the event, but want to be tested?

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has an office in Jackson at 766 Lakeland Drive, Suite A. The office is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and offers a number of services, including free HIV testing and a drugstore. non-profit.

Anyone attending the concert in August will also have the chance to get tested at the mobile health unit that will be on site.

Canady urged all sexually active people – whether with a partner or more – to get tested every six months because, just like cancer, the earlier HIV is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can be started and the longer there is. is likely to live a long time. .

Do you have a tip? Contact Gabriela Szymanowska at [email protected], at Twitter or at 601-215-4292.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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