The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) encourages Rhode Islanders to take advantage of the free, anonymous HIV testing that will be offered by AIDS Project Rhode Island (APRI) on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day this Sunday, February 7.
Testing will take place from noon to 3 p.m. at APRI's office at 9 Pleasant St. in Providence. No appointments are required, and all are welcome to be tested. The rapid tests that will be done do not require blood to be drawn, and results are available in 20 minutes. Staff will be available to provide assistance in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Between 2010 and 2014, African Americans in Rhode Island accounted for 21% of newly-identified cases of HIV, despite representing only 7% of the state's population. The rates of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men is 90 times higher than the rate for heterosexual men and women, and African American men who have sex with men are at an even greater risk.
"Rhode Island is a healthier place when we don't have large gaps in health outcomes like the one we see for HIV/AIDS," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of Health. "Everyone should be tested for HIV/AIDS at least once in their lifetime. This event is a great opportunity for Rhode Islanders to get tested, know their statuses, and get connected to vital medical care."
People with certain risk factors should be tested more frequently. Men who have sex with men should be tested at least once a year, along with people who have multiple sex partners, people who use injection drugs, and people who have been diagnosed with or sought treatment for another sexually transmitted disease.
"In addition to testing, information will be available at the event about treatment to reduce the risk of HIV infection, Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), and Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)," said APRI Executive Director Stephen Hourahan. "PrEP is an HIV prevention approach where HIV-negative individuals use anti-HIV medications to reduce their risk of becoming infected if they are exposed to the virus. PEP is an HIV prevention strategy where HIV-negative individuals take HIV medications after coming into contact with HIV to reduce their risk of becoming infected."
The disparity of newly-identified cases of HIV infection among African Americans is not unique to Rhode Island. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that African Americans have the largest burden of HIV of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
More information about HIV among African Americans is available online.
More information about testing on Sunday, February 7 can be found on APRI's website.