Know your status: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day reminds locals to get tested

Today may be National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, but a local agency says HIV education and testing in the African-American community remains a priority throughout the whole year.

“The day is a symbol.  Every day for us is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness day, really, in terms of one of our main focus areas,” executive director of the Western North Carolina AIDS project Jeff Bachar explained.  “It’s a good symbol to and a way to connect with the national efforts that the Center For Disease Control and other agencies are doing.” 

Funded by the CDC, National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day began in 2000.  The day serves as a national HIV testing and treatment community mobilizing initiative targeted at Blacks in the United States.  According to the CDC, Black Americans represented 14 percent of the US population in 2009, but accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections that year.

Locally, Buchar notices a similar trend.  “For the Buncombe County region, the African-American population is at about 8 or 9 percent, but I would say around 30 percent of our clients are African-American,” Buchar observes.  “There is a huge health-equity issue there, that I think has a lot of causes.  A lot is connected back to long-term racism, poverty and access to services.  We’re working with a whole bunch of organizations to try and meet those needs.”

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness day emphasizes the importance of getting tested for HIV infection.  Buncombe county residents can get tested at WNCAP by appointment.  They offer free, rapid testing, which Buchar says takes about thirty minutes from start to finish to get the result.  If the rapid test shows a positive result, the individual should then undergoes a blood test to confirm.  Buchar ensures that “a negative result is definitely negative” from the rapid test, and the client does not need to follow up with blood test.

“Rapid testing relieves a lot of the anxiety, and it is also nice because the person doing the testing is trained to do the test, but also in how to share results with folks,” Buchar says.  “If there is a preliminary positive, there is always a lot of anxiety, and (the person giving the test) can put them at ease as much as possible.”

WNCAP offers an HIV support group on the first and third Tuesdays each month at 6 PM.  For more information, call WNCAP at 828.252.7489.

Other health service providers that offer testing locally are listed below.

Free Buncombe County Test Sites:
Buncombe County Department of Health (No eligibility requirement)
40 Coxe Avenue
Asheville, North Carolina 28801

Western Carolina AIDS Project (By appointment)
554 Fairview Rd
Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville VA Medical Center (For eligible veterans only)
1100 Tunnel Rd
Asheville, North Carolina 28805

Rapid HIV Test Sites:
Planned Parenthood Health Systems Incorporated
603 Biltmore Ave
Asheville, North Carolina

Conventional Blood Testing / Conventional HIV Oral Testing:
Western North Carolina Community Health Services Minne Jones Health Center (West Asheville Site)
264 Haywood Rd
Asheville, North Carolina 28806

Western North Carolina Community Health Services
257 Biltmore Ave.
Asheville, North Carolina 28801


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