WrdAIDSday

 

ST. LOUIS - St. Louis Effort for AIDS (EFA) may have fallen short of its goal to break a world record for the most people tested for HIV in one day, Dec. 1, but the longtime AIDS Service Organization managed to shatter state and regional records and may have broken the national record.

 

EFA, which marks its 30th anniversary this year, partnered with host venue the Missouri History Museum, Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, local health departments and over 30 businesses and community organizations for last month's World AIDS Day event.

 

Some 316 individuals were tested in an eight hour period netting at least three positive results, said Dale Wrigley, Director of Engagement and Advocacy at EFA. While the number didn't catch the previous world record of 1,382 people tested, the organization is delighted with the outcomes.

 

"I think after not setting the world record, what was interesting is, again, that on a Monday after a snowstorm, after media had been focused on other issues, we still tested 316 people in an eight hour period," said Wrigley. "It's significant and the most people tested regionally and statewide. We're still waiting to hear back nationally but so far no numbers come close to this. Our biggest event here in St. Louis where we do event testing is National Testing Day and Pride - but the combined total is usually just under that for the two days."

 

According to Cheryl Oliver, Executive Director of EFA, the World AIDS Day event created an efficiency system for testing that has received praise at the local and state levels.

 

"It was a systemization of something that we've all been doing for a long time," said Oliver. "Because we wanted to anticipate for the most people what we did was develop this quite remarkable system. Not only did we break a regional and state record for people tested - what came out of it was a efficiency system for testing that I think is along with the whole idea of [testing] becoming standardized and we're really proud of it."

 

It is estimated that one in five individuals do not know their health status. HIV/AIDS continues to impact the St. Louis community with over 6,600 individuals living with HIV/AIDS in the St. Louis region. Regionally, the greatest impact has been among African American men and women, who are seven times more likely to contract HIV. With improved treatment options and access to care services, individuals are living longer, healthier lives with this disease. However, treatment is not a cure and infection rates among young black men between the ages of 13 to 24 remain high, with 40% of all new cases of HIV reported in the Metro St. Louis HIV Epidemiological profile for 2013.

 

"The committee this year wanted to make [World AIDS Day] an active event instead of a passive event and try to get the community involved and in particular, young people involved, as best we could," Wrigley concluded. "Testing of course makes something active but we wanted to be able to expand that so that's where we added components of what will draw people? Because it's not just the testing that will draw people; we want people to come to the booths, we want people to come to the opening service to remember. I think that's where we started to add those components."

 

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