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TEMPLE REACHES OUT TO COMMUNITY HARDEST HIT BY HIV
July 6, 2011
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Local resident LeRoy Thompson (right) takes an informational pamphlet from Princess Graham (center), program coordinator of the Comprehensive HIV Program at the Temple School of Medicine, as Carol Holtzman, HIV pharmacist and clinical assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy, looks on. Temple held the testing to educate the community on health issues such as HIV and to get as many people as possible tested within the community. Photo by Ryan Brandenberg, Temple University.
In Philadelphia, rates of HIV infection are about five times higher than the national average, according to the city's Department of Public Health. The areas around Temple have a particularly high prevalence of HIV patients in treatment.
"There are even more people walking around who are positive and don't know it," said Princess Graham, program coordinator for Temple's Comprehensive HIV Program. "It's particularly troubling among African-American heterosexual women, because it's hitting them the hardest."
Which is why Graham organized the Comprehensive HIV Program's fourth annual HIV Testing Day on June 27, to test as many community members as possible, and to let them know there's no stigma around getting tested. “Many people think HIV is still a gay disease, but, this is a disease that anyone having unprotected sex can get,” said Graham.
June was AIDS Activities Month, and across the city several community sites held outreach and testing activities. Temple was a part of several of those activities, including Susquehanna Day, held on June 25 and sponsored by State Rep. Jewell Williams, which featured food, entertainment, health education and testing. Graham says at that event, representatives from Temple helped to test more than 200 people.
June 27 is designated as National HIV Testing Day, an annual observance to promote HIV testing. At Temple's event, health professionals and vendors from all over the city gathered at Temple's Student Faculty Center at the Health Sciences Campus to offer information and education on health and well being, and to give free HIV screenings.
"This is just one part of what we do," said Graham. "We participate in health fairs all over the city, year round. A big part of what we do is talking to high school students across the city. It's important to talk to teenagers about sexually transmitted diseases, because the number of cases in this group is rising."
Temple's next free community screening event will be Thursday, Dec. 1 for World AIDS Day, a global effort to remind people that HIV has not gone away.
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