News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, June 21, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says between 2008 to 2010, HIV infections among young African-American gay and bisexual men increased 20 percent. But one local university is trying to stop the spread of HIV.
GRU unveiled its new mobile HIV testing van on Friday, and the best part about it? David Thompson with the Ryan White Outreach team says with a big laugh, "The air conditioning."
But the next best thing is the wheels.
"With the van, we'll be able to take the testing out to the rural areas and hopefully get them into care sooner in the progression of their disease," Thompson said.
The Ryan White Outreach team has been offering free HIV testing for years. But up until now, they've had to get help from local businesses like Bruster's to offer testing at public locations.
Peter Rissing is the principal investigator of the Ryan White Program at GRU.
"While this has been effective, it really hasn't reached the rural population in the 13 counties that surround us here and in South Carolina," Rissing said.
They're hoping that with the mobile unit, they'll be able to bring free testing, which is just a swab of the cheek, to more remote areas.
"Traditionally, people that got into care from rural areas tended to get into care later in the progression of their disease, and it was exactly correlated to the lack of testing in rural areas," Rissing said.
The Augusta area ranks very high for HIV rates. It's one of the top 40 cities in the country.
According to Rissing, "A lot of people don't realize that Augusta isn't that far behind Atlanta when you start looking at the rate of HIV in the community."
But they say there's no need to be afraid to get tested because treatment for the disease has come a long way. They say that if they diagnose someone when they're infected with HIV before it progresses to AIDS, it will never progress to AIDS with early treatment.
When they take the mobile unit out, they'll also be offering other health screening, like blood pressure checks, which will hopefully make people more comfortable about coming into the mobile unit.
If you're interested in getting tested, they will be offering free testing at the Augusta Pride Festival.