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Bulloch to participate in National HIV Testing Day
HIV story - Byars
Keisha Byars - photo by Luke Martin/staff


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    Organizers are hoping to administer free HIV/AIDS tests to at least 100 people on Wednesday as part of National HIV Testing Day.
    The tests will take place at the Little Lotts Creek Apartments from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will be given by the Bulloch County Health Department.
    "The theme for this year's event is 'To Stop the Spread of HIV, it must begin with You and Me," said Melissa Jones, HIV prevention coordinator for Comprehensive AIDS Resource Encounter (CARE).
    "This event is an effort to provide awareness of the statistical effects of not getting tested and to encourage all age and ethnic demographics to practice annual testing," Jones said.
    The test takes about 20 minutes and does not involve needles. Instead, a swab of the cheek is taken and tested for HIV antibodies. Results are available in 20 minutes.
    Georgia has the eighth most number of new and existing HIV/AIDS cases in the nation, according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
    "A new study shows a partner's infidelity is the single greatest HIV risk for women," said Deb Blackburn, director of Amethyst Project, Inc., a non-profit AIDS support organization. "It's important that everyone come out and get tested because you never know where you stand."
    Keisha Byars, public relations intern with Amethyst Project, said they've seen an increase in HIV and AIDS in the Statesboro area over the past few years.
    She said many people avoid getting tested for HIV even though they are tested for other sexually transmitted diseases.
    "I think it's scary for some people (to get tested)," she said. "It's scary to look at yourself in the mirror and say they may have HIV. They don't want to think they may have it."
    Everyone tested will be entered into a drawing for a 27-inch flat screen television and a $50 savings bond. Also on hand will be free food, music and games for all ages and HIV prevention educational materials. Master's Den, Wal-Mart, Briggs and Stratton and Farmers and Merchants Bank also donated prizes for the drawing.
    For more information, contact Jones at (912) 764-0784.
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