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Blacks urged to have free HIV test.

Byline: Vivian Ho

WORCESTER - Worcester is one of five communities targeted in a state Department of Public Health campaign to encourage people of African-American descent to undergo HIV/AIDS testing.

According to state figures, blacks in Worcester have the third-highest rate of HIV/AIDS cases in Massachusetts. Other cities targeted in the campaign are Boston, Springfield, Lynn and Brockton.

The DPH campaign, announced Friday, is called "Get Talking, Get Tested." It is the first new HIV/AIDS testing campaign launched by the state in four years and will continue for the rest of the month. The billboard and print media campaign are intended to highlight the importance of the tests "not just for your own sake, but for the health and safety of your family and your community as a whole," DPH Commissioner John Auerbach said.

The commissioner noted in an interview that blacks constitute 6 percent of the state's population, but 28 percent of people with HIV/AIDS. "We want people to understand that getting tested for HIV should be a regular part of your health care routine," he said.

In connection with the campaign, DPH also is funding fast, free and confidential tests through Worcester facilities such as the Family Health Center, Health Awareness Services of Central Massachusetts and the Henry Lee Willis Center as part of the fourth annual National HIV Testing Day on June 27, said Kevin Cranston, director of DPH's HIV/AIDS Bureau. On that day, free oral tests for HIV and seminars on HIV, risk reduction and other HIV/AIDS services will be offered.

AIDS Project Worcester, Great Brook Valley Health Center, UMass Memorial Health Care, the Legal Assistance Center of Central Massachusetts, the Worcester Youth Center and YWCA/Daybreak also are collaborating on the Testing Day event.

Engaging in sexual relations with partners of unknown HIV status is responsible for 41 percent of the reported HIV/AIDS cases among the black community, according to a recent DPH report.

"Every sexually active adult should know their HIV status," Mr. Cranston said. "We're encouraging all sexually active adults to have frank conversations with their partners as well as with their health care providers."
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 8, 2008
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