JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - World AIDS Day finds Mississippi with a continuing rise in HIV/AIDS cases.
But organizations and the medical community are coming together to tackle the deadly disease.
Free testing is being offered to curb the increase and educate the public.
Tuesday Dwayne Singletary underwent a free HIV test at CARE4 Me Services at the Jackson Medical Mall.
It is one of several facilities in the metro offering free testing on World AIDS Day.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated is one organization leading a month long initiative to encourage HIV /AIDS education and testing.
“There’s a stigma out there concerning especially African American people that it’s ok, let’s hide it, but we should not,” said Delta Sigma Theta Inc. Jackson Alumnae Chapter President Gwendolyn Handy. “Everyone should know their status when it comes to any disease but especially those deadly diseases such as AIDS”.
In just minutes, Singletary was told he does not carry the virus.
HIV Specialist Dr. Mauda Monger with Open Arms Healthcare Clinic said Jackson ranks in the top five cities in the nation with new AIDS diagnoses.
“We’re seeing increasing numbers of young people,” said Dr. Monger. “At one point Mississippi had the highest rate of persons 13 to 24 years old. So imagine being diagnosed with HIV at 14 years old. There’s no cure”.
“The southern states are now our critical states,” said Tamika Curtis-Holloway, Director of the HIV Information and Prevention Services Program at Jackson Hinds Comprehensive Health Center. “They are our states that are having a large number of HIV infections. A lot of people are HIV infected and are unaware of their status”.
During the pandemic medical experts stress the need for testing, treatment and practicing safe sex.
The Centers for Disease Control reports 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. Officials say 14 percent don’t know and need to be tested.