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HIV/AIDS Testing Rolling Into a Community Near You

June 24, 2008 — The Virgin Islands is climbing in the national rankings, moving from the fourth to the second-greatest number of HIV/AIDS cases per capita nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
With that as a backdrop, and with Friday marking National HIV Testing Day, the Department of Health is launching a mobile van service to bring testing into communities — bars and clubs on weekends, neighborhood parties, "… anywhere you can park, we'll be there," said Jason Henry.
Henry is the territory's HIV-prevention coordinator, who demonstrated the bells and whistles of one of two new, $30,000 vans that will soon be rolling across St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix in hopes of getting more people tested for HIV/AIDS, as well as to promote the notion of such testing as a routine part of health maintenance.
The van was introduced Tuesday on St. Thomas at the Knud Hansen Complex. But the formal inauguration of the mobile, free-testing program takes place at a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Wednesday on St. Croix at the Charles Harwood Medical Complex.
The vans won't be used exclusively to test for HIV/AIDS, according to Henry, because of the stigma that would carry. It will also offer screenings for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure. In fact, it's a "three birds with one stone" theory, according to Henry, who said that with one prick of the finger an individual can be screened for HIV/AIDS, diabetes and cholesterol all at once.
Late-day and early-evening hours is when the vans will typically roll through various communities, "When people are home," Henry said. An exact schedule is in the works, but the first two engagements are on the books: On Thursday, a van will park by Seaborne Airlines on St. Croix so local staff and passengers flying to St. Thomas can take advantage of testing. Should a passenger's flight depart before the 15-20 minute HIV/AIDS test-processing time has elapsed, results will be emailed through a confidential number system that shields the individual, regardless of who might see the communication. Testing will be offered from 7 to 10 a.m. and again from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. On Friday, during the same hours, the offer is repeated at Seaborne on St. Thomas, for staff and passengers departing to St. Croix.
Additionally, the health department is offering a men's health presentation on St. John, featuring free HIV/AIDS testing, from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Morris deCastro Clinic.
While the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is great in the territory, Taetia Phillips-Dorsett, territorial director of the STD/HIV/TB program, explained that recent initiatives have contributed to augmenting the local caseload. There has been more outreach to encourage testing, and greater laboratory compliance in reporting positive cases to the Health Department, Phillips-Dorsett said.
As of December 2007, 885 cases of HIV and AIDS had been reported to the Department of Health, according to Phillips-Dorsett.
According to Henry, HIV/AIDS can be controlled, and people should not avoid testing.
"HIV is not a death sentence anymore," he said. "With treatment and care, you can live a lot longer."
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June 24, 2008 -- The Virgin Islands is climbing in the national rankings, moving from the fourth to the second-greatest number of HIV/AIDS cases per capita nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
With that as a backdrop, and with Friday marking National HIV Testing Day, the Department of Health is launching a mobile van service to bring testing into communities -- bars and clubs on weekends, neighborhood parties, "... anywhere you can park, we'll be there," said Jason Henry.
Henry is the territory's HIV-prevention coordinator, who demonstrated the bells and whistles of one of two new, $30,000 vans that will soon be rolling across St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix in hopes of getting more people tested for HIV/AIDS, as well as to promote the notion of such testing as a routine part of health maintenance.
The van was introduced Tuesday on St. Thomas at the Knud Hansen Complex. But the formal inauguration of the mobile, free-testing program takes place at a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Wednesday on St. Croix at the Charles Harwood Medical Complex.
The vans won't be used exclusively to test for HIV/AIDS, according to Henry, because of the stigma that would carry. It will also offer screenings for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure. In fact, it's a "three birds with one stone" theory, according to Henry, who said that with one prick of the finger an individual can be screened for HIV/AIDS, diabetes and cholesterol all at once.
Late-day and early-evening hours is when the vans will typically roll through various communities, "When people are home," Henry said. An exact schedule is in the works, but the first two engagements are on the books: On Thursday, a van will park by Seaborne Airlines on St. Croix so local staff and passengers flying to St. Thomas can take advantage of testing. Should a passenger's flight depart before the 15-20 minute HIV/AIDS test-processing time has elapsed, results will be emailed through a confidential number system that shields the individual, regardless of who might see the communication. Testing will be offered from 7 to 10 a.m. and again from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. On Friday, during the same hours, the offer is repeated at Seaborne on St. Thomas, for staff and passengers departing to St. Croix.
Additionally, the health department is offering a men's health presentation on St. John, featuring free HIV/AIDS testing, from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Morris deCastro Clinic.
While the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is great in the territory, Taetia Phillips-Dorsett, territorial director of the STD/HIV/TB program, explained that recent initiatives have contributed to augmenting the local caseload. There has been more outreach to encourage testing, and greater laboratory compliance in reporting positive cases to the Health Department, Phillips-Dorsett said.
As of December 2007, 885 cases of HIV and AIDS had been reported to the Department of Health, according to Phillips-Dorsett.
According to Henry, HIV/AIDS can be controlled, and people should not avoid testing.
"HIV is not a death sentence anymore," he said. "With treatment and care, you can live a lot longer."
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.