FORT MYERS, Fla. - Thursday is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. It's a reminder, not only for African Americans, but for everyone to get tested. One Fort Myers organization is making it as easy as stopping for lunch.
People stop by Mr. Joe's Soul Food Deli on Michigan Avenue for a quick bite to eat or drink. On certain days, they can also stop by for a quick test.
Island Coast AIDS Network's white tent is popping upat restaurants, businesses, churches and parks - places you wouldn't normally see them. The benefit is they're getting to test those who may not normally get tested.
"This is just a way for us to get involved, get into the community, and be more accessible," ICAN HIV Tester/Counselor Emmanuel Mendez said. "On average, we are testing anywhere from ten to maybe fifteen people when we do this type of outreach."
"The sign said one minute," Toscora Odom said. "I looked at the sign, like wow, I haven't gotten one in a while, so I might as well come here and get one in one minute."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans accounted for 44% of all new infections in 2010, despite making up only 14% of the population. This is one way to bring those numbers down.
"It's actually good because a lot people, a lot of black people especially, they really don't get tested a lot so you know, they're probably scared to go down here," Odom said.
While all tests are kept confidential, Jerry Seawright allowed us to be there when he got tested.
"I'm going to use the side of your finger, this way you won't feel anything," Mendez said before sticking Seawright's finger.
Within minutes, he had his result, negative, along with peace of mind.
"It's just a little prick on the finger, they put some things together, and voila, you got your results," Seawright said. "I know I'm good, you should be good, everybody good."
"Back in the 80s and 90s, this disease was killing people," Mendez said, "but it's not like that anymore."
ICAN will bring their tests to any business interested in offering them. You can contact them at (239) 337-2391.
If you missed Thursday's testing, you'll have another chance this weekend. ICAN will offering free and confidential HIV testing at a Charity Car Wash from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday February 9th at the State Farmer's Market at 2744 Edison Avenue. Donations received here will benefit a 3-on-3 basketball tournament on February 16th at the STARZ complex.