It can't be said enough: Sexually active people must
know whether they have HIV or other sexually-transmitted infections. It's the first and most crucial step in preventing the spread of these infections and in seeking treatment when it's needed.
"Forty-five percent of new cases [of HIV] are from people who don't know their status," says James Walker Moon, WMSM program coordinator for St. Louis Effort for AIDS
. "One in three people [with HIV] don't know their status."
St. Louis Effort For AIDS is the city's oldest organization providing support to people with HIV and AIDS. Since 1985, they've offered testing and other supports. And, in a novel effort to reach out to the community, they've started offering mobile after-hours testing, too. It's called EFA After Dark
This Friday, the group will park an RV in the Grove neighborhood,
in the parking lot of Commerce Bank at the corner of Sarah and
Manchester. They'll be offering free HIV and syphilis testing between 7
and 11 p.m. Folks can call for their results in two weeks, or they can
opt for rapid HIV testing with results in fifteen minutes.
rates for both diseases are on an alarming upswing in St. Louis. Moon
says that in 2010, EFA testing saw seventeen positive HIV results. Now, not
even halfway through 2011, they've seen nineteen cases. And, he says, syphilis
rates in the city have doubled since last year.
"There is an
increase in unsafe sex practices or people not getting tested," Moon
says. "It hasn't gone anywhere but a lot of young men, in particular,
think that HIV is this older disease."
Friday's event is the
third EFA After Dark. It's an acknowledgment that not everyone can make
their workaday hours for testing. For those who can, however, walk-ins are
accepted Monday and Wednesday, and you can make an appointment any
weekday between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. by calling (314) 645-6451. On-site,
they also do testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Anyone who gets
a positive result at the event will be referred for free treatment.
Everyone leaves with a nifty T-shirt. But more importantly, they leave
with the facts about their health.
And that, friends, is sexy.