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Expanded Hours for Free, Rapid HIV Tests on February 7th: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

As a part of work toward Rhode Island's ambitious 90-90-90 HIV testing and treatment targets, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is encouraging people to take advantage of expanded hours for free, anonymous HIV testing on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Tuesday, February 7th.

Testing will take place on February 7th from noon until 7 p.m. at AIDS Project Rhode Island (APRI)'s office at 9 Pleasant Street 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. (Testing is available year round at APRI, either by appointment or during walk-in hours on Tuesdays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.)

The targets of the 90-90-90 campaign are that by 2020, 90% of all HIV-infected Rhode Islanders will know their HIV status, 90% of all HIV-infected Rhode Islanders will be in care and receiving treatment, and 90% of all HIV-infected Rhode Islanders will have suppressed viral loads. In December 2015, Rhode Island and Providence became the first state-city partnership to join the international 90-90-90 campaign.

"90-90-90 is a pivotal campaign that establishes clear metrics to evaluate our work to get as many people as possible tested for HIV, and to ensure that people who have HIV are seeing their doctors and are taking their medications," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a great opportunity for Rhode Island as state to narrow a significant health disparity, and for individual Rhode Islanders to get tested, know their status, and get connected to vital medical care."

Between 2011 and 2015, African Americans in Rhode Island accounted for 20% 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.

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.

Everyone should get tested for HIV at least once in their life. 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 sought treatment for or been diagnosed with another sexually transmitted disease.

APRI will also be offering free and anonymous testing for Hepatitis C and syphilis. Staff will be available to provide assistance in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

In addition to APRI, free, rapid testing is available through AIDS Care Ocean State and Project Weber/RENEW.

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