Free HIV testing honors late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones; 3,200 people with HIV in Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio - During a physical for a new job, Elaine Henderson was asked if she wanted an HIV test.

Despite believing she didn't have any risk factors, she said yes. The test was positive. But, that was five years ago and thanks to advances in medicine, she takes just one pill a day.

Henderson said she feels great and now works for the Care Alliance counseling others with HIV.  Elaine encourages everyone to get tested.

"So many people think because they're in a monogamous relationship or haven't found out their partner's risk, they don't think they're at risk, but everybody is at risk so the important thing to do is take the test," Henderson said.

On Wednesday, there were several free HIV testing sites set up throughout the city of Cleveland.

There was a testing site in the parking lot of the Call and Post, where workers demonstrated the test. Just seconds with a swab and results in minutes.

Karen Butler, Cleveland's director of public health, said there are 3,200 people living with HIV in Cleveland. There are nearly 5,000 when you count all of Cuyahoga County.

But 20 percent of people who have HIV, don't know they have the virus that can cause AIDS.

"Not only is it spreading in populations we're aware of, but we are also concerned about the number of cases with heterosexual women, youth and even the senior population," Butler said.

Wednesday's free testing event was inspired by the late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones who championed prevention and care with passion.

Butler said now is the time to get tested because early treatment is better than ever. Henderson is living proof.

"The medications that are available right now really help to control the virus. It allows people to maintain a healthier status and live a longer life," Butler said.

The Care Alliance on St. Clair Avenue offers free HIV testing daily. Counselors and doctors offer care and guidance.

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