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National Aids Testing Day is June 27

On June 27, the San Antonio Prevention Cooperative, a group of HIV service organizations, and San Antonio AIDS Foundation will observe National Aids Testing Day by offering free finger-stick (blood) and OraQuick (oral swab) rapid testing for HIV infection at seven testing sites across the city. In addition, the AIDS Foundation will offer free rapid testing for the Hepatitis C virus.

At a press conference hosted by the Prevention Cooperative last week, local AIDS activists, politicians, and members of the health-care community gathered for a City Council "Kick-off Campaign" of the Testing Day. District 1 Councilman Roger Flores chided local media for weak attendance, saying the press prefers to cover "something more sensational." District 5's Patti Radle said testing should be offered in the schools and as part of City employees' health packages.

Testing sites for June 27:

At most sites, clients may choose between the OraQuick test, in which the gums are swabbed with a test strip, or the finger-stick blood test, both of which provide results in 20 minutes. Offered only at SAAF, the Hep C test is also a finger-stick blood test, with results in 15 minutes.

San Antonio AIDS Foundation
818 E. Grayson
*Hep C test available

Buena Vista at Acme

The Saint
1430 N. Main

Community Clinic
210 W. Olmos
10am-8 pm

Precious Corner
1102 Fredericksburg

2423 N. St. Mary's

Stewart Center
1711 Guadalupe
Dr. Enrique R. Perez, a physician with the Olmos Park Medical Association, stressed that AIDS cannot be considered a disease of gay white men. The fastest growing high-risk groups are African-American women, Hispanics, and young people ages 13-24. "The new faces of HIV are right here," he said, pointing to his audience.

According to the AIDS Foundation, as of December 2002, 4,488 AIDS cases were reported in Bexar County and 2,344 of those have died. Hispanics make up 2,244 of the reported AIDS cases, while 987 are African-American women - that's 22 percent, a disproportionate amount considering they represent only 10 percent of the female population in San Antonio. In 2004, the Metropolitan Health Department reported 505 new cases of AIDS.

"Ultimately, the main message is awareness and prevention," said Perez. "A lot of times we take the I-would-rather-not-know mentality. We don't have the luxury of thinking like that; we are the only ones who can change these horrible statistics."

Hepatitis C virus is also a major health issue in San Antonio. The Metropolitan Health Department reports there are more than 20,000 cases in San Antonio, and 3,000 new cases each year. This is the first year that the AIDS Foundation will offer free testing for the disease through an effort with the UT Health Science Center's Hepatitis C Outreach and Treatment Project.

"Hepatitis C can go hand in hand with HIV," said Cathy Novak, spokesperson for the San Antonio Aids Foundation, because of shared routes of transmission. This is especially true of the those who contract HIV/AIDS through injection drug use; 90 percent of injection drug users are infected with Hepatitis C. "Our hope is that, if we can get them in for the HIV test, people will also take a free Hep C test, and if we find `they have the disease` we can get them into treatment."

By Susan Pagani, additional reporting by Heather Holmes.

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