Free HIV testing shines light on high numbers in Augusta area


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – There are thousands of people living with HIV and AIDS in the Peach State and more continue to be infected. That’s why the local health department and an organization teamed up to make sure people are educated about their health.

100 new HIV cases happen every year in this region. That’s why efforts are being made to make sure people can walk into their local Walgreens and be tested and know their status.

“Why not get tested if I’m having sex,” one woman said before getting her test.

It’s just that simple for Shanether Berrien.

If you have sex, get tested, even if you have a significant other.

Berrien told us, “HIV is something you can’t get rid of. It’s not ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ It’s something you have to live with if you do have it.”

Georgia Department of Public Health shows alarming numbers for people diagnosed with HIV and people living with the infection. The highest numbers are in the Atlanta Metro area, but outside of that, behind Savannah, Augusta’s 13 county region sits at number two with more than 2,200 people with HIV. Public Health Educator Yanza Collins said married couples take HIV for granted and should be tested along with others.

“African Americans or African American men who sleep with men or just same sex couples, Hispanics,” Collins said adding basically all minorities.

And the process takes no time at all. After paperwork, it moves pretty fast. 60 seconds or less according to Erica Smith, a Positively Augusta volunteer giving the test.

“The test is pretty easy. It’s just like doing a finger prick like you’re testing your blood sugar.”

After the test, you get a results card. And if it’s positive, Collins wants people to know there’s a way to keep your partner protected with a pill.

“PrEP is really easy to get. For those who don’t know, it’s Truvada. It is one of the pharmaceutical regiments that is used for HIV at a lower dose. You take it every day. You go to your doctor every three months and get tested,” she explained.

Testing took place at the Walgreens stores on Wrightsboro Road and Walton Way and the Peach Orchard Road location.

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