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St. Luke A.M.E. Church observes World AIDS Day Dec. 1

In honor of World AIDS Day, St. Luke A.M.E. Church officials will emphasize the importance of HIV testing and the gravity of knowing one’s HIV status. Along with a 7 p.m. candlelight service on Tuesday, free HIV testing also will be conducted from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Cartersville church, 130 Jones St.

“This actually is the 27th year for World AIDS Day, and this is the third year that we’re doing [these offerings] here at St. Luke’s,” said the Rev. Annie Carter, associate pastor for St. Luke A.M.E. Church. “... We’re doing it to bring awareness that HIV and AIDS is still around and people are still being infected.

“People seem to think because people are not dying from it anymore that it’s OK, but [there is] still no cure for it. So we are doing free testing on Tuesday, which is World AIDS Day — it’s always celebrated on Dec. 1 ... all over the world — and we’re [offering] free HIV testing from 4 to 6:30 [p.m.].”

During the anonymous test, a swab will be rubbed inside a person’s mouth, with results available in 10 minutes.

“Anyone that has had unprotected sex should be tested,” said Carter, who previously served as the director of HIV Testing and Preventive Services for the former AIDS Alliance. “It’s important to know your status for one reason, so if you are HIV positive you can get medical care. If you are not HIV positive, we can also instruct you how to continue to remain negative. But if you are, it’s important that you know your status so that you do not give it to anyone else or spread it to anyone else, and also [so] you can get medical treatment.

“And that’s why we’re doing this, because if people don’t know their status and they continue to have unprotected sex, it’s only being spread. And if you don’t know your status, you’re not in treatment, so eventually it’s going to take hold of you and you’re going to become very sick. Whereas if you know your status and you are negative, you can remain negative, and if you’re positive you can get treatment.”

Found in certain bodily fluids, some of the primary ways HIV is transmitted is through unprotected sexual relations with an infected person; contaminated needles; mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding; occupation exposure; and blood transfusion or organ transplant.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “HIV in the United States: At A Glance” at http://www.cdc.gov, “CDC estimates that 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection, including 156,300 (12.8%) who are unaware of their infection. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable ... at about 50,000 new HIV infections per year. Within the overall estimates, however, some groups are affected more than others. MSM [men who have sex with men] continue to bear the greatest burden of HIV infection, and among races/ethnicities, African Americans continue to be disproportionately affected.”