AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– National HIV Testing Day is Tuesday, and Paine College hosted a health fair and cookout in support.
It all started in a backyard, 12 years ago. with just 35 people. Now, every year on June 27th, Paine College brings hundreds of community members together for HIV testing.
“Most of the prevalent cases are in the South, and Augusta was in the top 5 of the top 25 Southern cities infected with HIV,” Yanza Collins with the Department of Public Health told NewsChannel 6.
Several organizations gathered at Paine College Sunday to tear down the stigmas related to HIV.
“We have an array of individuals here at the health fair who are certified and well-educated to give you and education and to put the hope that you may lose when you find out your status,” Ken Bonds Jr., an event co-organizer, said.
Bonds said not knowing your status is the worst thing possible. That’s why the Department of Public Health provided on-site STD testing.
“We do a mouth swab, there’s no blood, you get your results in twenty minutes. It just makes it really, really easy for you to get your results,” Collins explained.
She said people assist in every step of the testing process.
“If somebody tested positive, we have somebody that would literally link them to care. Like literally, if they need somebody to hold their hand and walk them to the clinic,” Collins said.
“It’s not a death sentence like in the early days of finding out if you are HIV positive or diagnosed with AIDs,” Bonds said.
“It doesn’t change you as a person. You just have to change your lifestyle, and it’s really no different than anyone who gets diagnosed with Diabetes or Hypertension. Those are the things that will actually kill you. HIV won’t,” Collins explained.
DPH’s mission is to end the stigma of HIV. Collins said even if you stop the spread, the stigma always overshadows.