Free HIV Testing Offered Throughout Bay Area Today

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Bay Area residents are being urged to get tested for HIV today as part of a national campaign promoting early detection and diagnosis of the virus.

Free testing is available in many parts of the region as part of National HIV Testing Day. At Sobrante Park in East Oakland, a mobile testing unit will offer free oral tests between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Those who get tested will be invited to participate in a free barbecue picnic. The event is hosted by the nonprofit California Prostitutes Education Project, or CAL-PEP, working with the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc. CAL-PEP case manager Leslie Carminer said today is about increasing awareness in the community, and that the neighborhood where the event is taking place has a population that is considered "high-risk" for HIV infection.

Carminer said the only pain involved in the no-needles oral test -- which is done by cheek swab -- comes from the anxiety of waiting for results, which are ready in about 20 minutes. Personnel will be on hand to assist anyone who tests positively or wants more information about the disproportionate rate of HIV infection in the black community in Alameda County, Carminer said.

Organizers of a new HIV testing campaign by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department are also taking part in today's national event. The campaign, dubbed "I'm on it," promotes the importance of getting tested, especially for those between the ages of 18 and 44.

Free mobile HIV testing stations will be set up at several San Jose locations today, including at the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center at 938 The Alameda and the Crane Center at 976 Lenzen Ave. from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

There will also be testing on a mobile bus at the Consulate General of Mexico to help raise HIV awareness among the Latino community. More free testing will be offered on Friday at the San Pedro Square Farmers' Market in San Jose between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. In Sonoma County, the organization Face to Face is offering free tests at its office at 873 Second St. in Santa Rosa. According to the organization, more than 2,000 Sonoma County residents are living with HIV.

In San Francisco, Walgreens stores in the city's Castro and Mission districts are offering the free tests today between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. On days other than National HIV Testing Day, free tests are available at various health department-sponsored centers and through other organizations.


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