Louisiana is Greater Than AIDS HIV Testing Tour: On the Road to Essence Music Festival and National HIV Testing Day

Tour Caravan will Culminate at the Essence Music Festival

NEW ORLEANS, June 23, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Louisiana Office of Public Health STD/HIV Program and The Black AIDS Institute today announce the "Louisiana is Greater Than AIDS HIV Testing Tour, On the Road to the Essence Music Festival," a weeklong series of free HIV testing events across the state starting Saturday, June 25th at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club in Shreveport and ending Thursday, June 30th at the AIDS United AmeriCorps Community Garden in New Orleans. Free HIV testing will also be available at the Essence Music Festival, July 1-3 at the New Orleans Convention Center. On June 27th, National HIV Testing Day, the Louisiana is Greater than AIDS Tour will be hosting its event in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  

The tour is being held to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS in Black communities, to fight the stigma associated with HIV and other STDs and to encourage people to get tested. Each day of the tour will include ticket giveaways to the Essence Music Festival and a raffle to win a five-day cruise. Each tour stop will feature a number of activities, including appearances by Emmy Award-winner and author of The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive, Marvelyn Brown and a spoken word performance by AIDS activist and National Slam Poetry champion Sonya Renee. Some stops will also feature appearances by actors Rockmond Dunbar and Lamman Rucker, as well as the Sigma Alpha Tau Steppers, a Lafayette-based Step group, workshops offered by the Louisiana Stylist Initiative, which encourages hair stylists to discuss STDs and HIV with their customers and "Jewelry with a Message" workshops.

"Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic, our prevention toolbox has exploded, giving us the ability to dramatically cut new infections and improve health outcomes," said Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, a co-sponsor of the event. "The clinical prevention breakthroughs we've seen in the last year are nothing short of earth shattering and finally make it possible for us to start working toward an 'end game' for the epidemic. We're now at a deciding moment – but the question for the good people of Louisiana is will we seize this opportunity or will we allow AIDS to remain a scourge for three more decades?"

The tour will culminate at the Essence Music Festival, which will feature performances by Usher, Boyz II Men, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, Charlie Wilson, Chaka Khan and Kanye West, among others. Everyone attending the Louisiana is Greater than AIDS tour will be entered into drawings for tickets to the festival, as well as Caribbean cruises.

In Louisiana, African-Americans comprise just 32 percent of the population, yet they represented 75 percent of the state's new HIV cases last year. More African-Americans in Louisiana are infected with HIV than any other racial or ethnic group, reflecting a national trend. Furthermore, Louisiana has some of the highest rates of HIV in the country: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Baton Rouge ranked second and New Orleans ninth nationally in AIDS case rates in 2009.

The tour will make the following stops:


Shreveport:

Saturday, June 25

3-7 p.m.

The Salvation Army

Boys and Girls Club

2821 Greenwood Rd.

Alexandria:

Sunday, June 26

3-6 p.m.

Bethel AME Church

3500 Jones Ave.


Lake Charles:

Monday, June 27

4-7 p.m.

Walgreens

2000 Highway 14


Opelousas:

Tuesday, June 28

4-7 p.m.

Walgreens

410 Cresswell Lane

Baton Rouge:

Wednesday June 29

11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Walgreens

3550 Government St.

4 p.m. – 7 p.m.

YMCA
1735 Thomas Delpit Dr.

New Orleans:

Thursday, June 30

4-7 p.m.

AIDS United AmeriCorps Community Garden

925 North Villere St.




"We are excited to be leaders in this effort to raise awareness about STDs and HIV and to promote testing with all of these community partners," said DeAnn Gruber, Ph.D., director of the Louisiana Office of Public Health STD/HIV Program. "The entire state is geared up and ready to make this event a success. This combined effort will go a long way to helping people understand the importance of getting tested and hopefully, begin to reduce the stigma that still surrounds STDs and HIV in our communities."  

Alere, a company that makes HIV rapid testing technology, is the exclusive testing sponsor of the testing tour. Avita Drugs, a specialty pharmacy based in Louisiana, is the other major sponsor of the tour. Orasure Technologies, which makes the 20-minute HIV oral rapid test, will sponsor HIV testing at the Essence Music Festival. Other valuable community partners include the Louisiana Public Health Institute and the Louisiana Community AIDS Partnership, www.greaterthan.org and community organizations around the state.

As part of the Greater Than AIDS campaign, a national media and mobilization initiative managed by the Black AIDS Institute and the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Louisiana tour extends a call to action to Black leaders, individuals and institutions in a community-wide effort to end the AIDS epidemic.

For more information and a full list of testing locations on the tour, please call the Louisiana HIV/STD information line at 1-800-992-4379 or go to the community calendar on www.HIV411.org.

About the Greater Than AIDS Movement
The Greater Than AIDS movement responds to the AIDS crisis in the United States, in particular to the severe and disproportionate epidemic among Black Americans and other heavily affected groups. Through a national media campaign and community outreach, Greater Than AIDS aims to increase knowledge and understanding of HIV/AIDS and confront the stigma surrounding the disease among those most affected. Greater Than AIDS is coordinated by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Black AIDS Institute. Additional financial and substantive support is provided by the Ford Foundation, Elton John AIDS Foundation, MAC AIDS Fund among others. http://www.greaterthan.org.

SOURCE Black AIDS Institute



RELATED LINKS
http://www.blackaids.org
http://www.greaterthan.org

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