HEALTH

D.C. students tested on Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

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Marking "Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day," several local health organizations offered free testing and services.

In the District health experts say three out of four HIV positive residents are black. In partnership with D.C. schools, United Medical Center is hoping to break that trend.

One year ago United Medical Center in Southeast Washington opened its infectious disease care center, a front line in the fight to prevent new cases of HIV/AIDS in the District.

"We do more testing at this hospital than all of the other hospitals collectively in the entire district," said United Medical Center CEO Frank Delisi.

On Tuesday, about 150 D.C. high school students visited UMC for testing and education about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The students from across Anacostia were 16 and older. Their parents signed a waiver allowing them to participate.

The conversation was frank, sometimes graphic, covering topics like condoms and risky sexual behavior. Health experts said it's important to correct myths and talk to teens with honesty.

"Ignorance is not going to make the problem go away," Delisi said. "The best thing is to educate our children, our youth and make them aware of the consequences of actions."

Dozens of students volunteered to get tested.

"I want to know for myself, not for anyone else, but myself to make sure I'm safe," said student Shaquilla Parker.

With more than 3 percent of Washingtonians living with HIV and an even higher infection rate in the Black community, some advocates argue one day is not enough to address the local epidemic.

But they also hope by sharing the information with these teens, they'll pass it on to their peers and perhaps prevent the disease from passing any further.

"I think once you learn the facts, maybe some people will learn more self-value," said student Taaliba Coursey.

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