June 25, 2009 – Personnel from the Department of Health’s mobile unit were out Thursday giving free HIV/AIDS tests at Seaborne Airline’s terminal in Christiansted.
Those being tested filled out paperwork in the shade of a tent, then were tested in the privacy of the air-conditioned van. The test is done with a small drop of blood taken in a painless finger stick. Jasmin Cintron from the DOH said the results are complete in 15 minutes.
The DOH is testing all week at different locations on St. Croix and St. Thomas, expanding on National HIV Testing Day, which is Saturday.
“We have dedicated the whole week for testing because it is so important for individuals to know their status,” said Jason Henry, DOH territory HIV prevention coordinator. “We want to reduce the stigma of being tested. HIV is not a death sentence but it is better to know your status early to get proper care.”
Henry said if the test is positive the DOH provides care and treatment.
Henry said since collection of data began in 1989 there have been 632 cases of AIDS and 274 cases of HIV in the territory. In 2008 there were 12 new HIV cases and 11 new AIDS cases.
As an incentive for people to get tested, Seaborne has donated a round-trip seaplane ticket to Puerto Rico. Each person tested will be entered in a drawing for it. Henry said it is the second year the DOH has partnered with Seaborne. Testing will be done Friday at the Seaborne terminal on St. Thomas from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“It is imperative to the health of the community to get tested to avoid the spread of AIDS,” said Ethel Ritch, vice president of administration and human resources for Seaborne. She added Seaborne is pleased to help to insure that the health of the community is safe.
“It is very important for businesses and government agencies to collaborate to help stop the spread of HIV/Aids in the community,” Henry said.
Friday night H20 restaurant in La Grande Princesse will collaborate with the DOH during Karaoke Night. The mobile unit will be at the restaurant from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. People who get tested will be entered in a drawing for a dinner from H20.
The mobile unit will be at John F. Kennedy housing project Saturday partnering with Frederiksted Health Care Clinic. There will be refreshments and a chance for those tested to win a DVD player.
Henry said in the future the mobile unit will go out in the community at least once a month to continue to offer testing.
Julia Sheen, acting health commissioner, encourages the community to "take the test and take control.”
On St. Croix Tuesday in the emergency room at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and Wednesday at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas, testing was done free for anyone visiting the ER for any other issues. According to DOH, since testing began Monday more than 150 people now know their status and have received prevention counseling.