L.A. centers offer free services during National HIV Testing Day
In recognition of National HIV Testing Day, celebrities, politicians, and hip-hop and health groups are urging people to find out their status. Through Twitter and other social media sites, they have been promoting the nationwide event.
In Los Angeles, AIDS Project-Los Angeles will have free testing booths available in various Walgreens, and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation also is offering free testing in its vans and walk-in clinics as well as in its secondhand outlets, Out of the Closet.
Both L.A. advocacy organizations have websites where people can find their nearest clinic.
Ged Kenslea, the spokesperson for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said that the organization has vans that can go to anyone’s neighborhood to offer free tests. That way, “nobody really needs to know your business,” Kenslea said.
But for every status people share today on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #KnowYourStatus, the makers of LifeStyle condoms will donate a condom to the foundation to help prevent the spread of HIV.
One in five people in the United States is living with HIV and doesn’t know it, estimated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meaning about 1.2 million people are HIV positive. What’s more, 60% of people who do know are not receiving regular, reliable medical care, according to the HIV Medical Assn.
This reality is disproportionately affecting women, black and Latino people, and people living in rural communities. And stigma is largely to blame.
“There’s still a lot of fear,” said Lawrence Lowery, a medical assistant at the HIV outpatient unit at San Francisco General Hospital. Lowery said one reason people are not finding out their status is a fear they’re going to die if their test comes back positive.
But an HIV-positive diagnosis is not a death sentence, he said, explaining that new technology and medications make it possible to live a long, healthy life. He added that not knowing doesn’t stop HIV from existing, but it does reduce someone’s chances of living longer. It also increases the chance that someone will spread the disease to others.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.