Mobile HIV Testing: The New Standard?

FRESNO, Calif.

Deadra Lawson-Smith is a grandmother and HIV positive. Her boyfriend dropped the news 21 years ago.

"He said, well you might as well stay with me 'cause I have AIDS and you probably got it too," Deadra Lawson-Smith, HIV positive, told Ivanhoe.

It's no wonder she urges early testing for at-risk folks. Mobile testing labs are helping that cause, popping up across the U.S. in droves.

"There shouldn't be a person out here that's had sex that doesn't know their status, period," Bambi Gaddist, from the Department of Public Health and founder of South Carolina HIV/AIDS council, said.

On average, 56 thousand people are infected with HIV each year. Government stats show nearly one in three cases are diagnosed too late to slow the onset of AIDS. These vehicles are equipped with full labs, giving test results in just 20 minutes.

A new report shows their growing importance. Recently, 2.2 percent of new HIV diagnoses were delivered via dedicated clinic and .07 percent of new notifications came from mobile units or nearly 400 of the 56 thousand annually infected.

"We can't just sit in our offices and think that people will just come in the door and ask for an HIV test," Gaddist said.

Beyond that, more than 64 percent of those tested preferred a mobile test to a standard one.

"The not knowing is what kills you. I believe I'm still here today because of early testing," Lawson-Smith said.

Now, Deadra watches while mobile workers handout condoms and encourage the community. It's a start, for sure.

Those given HIV positive results are connected to a social worker on the spot. Results are then confirmed in a physician's office. States like New York and California have seen an up-tick in these types of mobile units over the past two years.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Bambi Gaddist, DPH
Executive Director
South Caolina HIV/AIDS Council
bamewame@aol.com

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