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Oct. 8, 2012
TOPEKA Free screenings for HIV are being offered this week in four southwest Kansas communities, targeting Latinos, who are disproportionately infected with HIV/AIDS in both the U.S. and in Kansas.
The screenings are available to walk-in clients from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries (UMMAM) clinics:
• Monday, Oct. 8 in Dodge City, 1700 Ave. F (map)
• Tuesday, Oct. 9 in Liberal, 311 N. Grant (map)
• Wednesday, Oct. 10 in Ulysses, 321 W. Grant (http://goo.gl/maps/BzLWB)
• Thursday, Oct. 11 in Garden City, 712 St. John St. (map)
In Kansas, Latinos made up about 11 percent of the state population but represented nearly 15 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases in the state in 2010. Nationwide, the rates are 16 and 20 percent.
“In the United States, and here in Kansas, HIV disproportionately affects populations of color, particularly African-Americans and Latinos,” said Teresa Romey, case manager for the Ryan White Part D at University of Kansas School of Medicine–Wichita. Staff from the school will be administering the free screenings.
“Unfortunately, HIV in this population is often detected much later when the virus has advanced and significantly disrupted the immune system,” Romey said.
HIV infection rates are increasing in Kansas, where about 1 in 1,000 residents are thought to be living with HIV or AIDS. In the last decade, the number of infections in Kansas increased 121 percent, said officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
According to recent studies, Latinos are more likely to test late for HIV when compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., said KDHE officials.
“The first step in preventing HIV from becoming AIDS is to be tested and be tested early,” said Brenda Walker, director of KDHE’s Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention. “For 2010, too many of the newly diagnosed HIV cases in Kansas were also AIDS diagnoses. Those who first learn of their HIV status when they already have AIDS have less likelihood of keeping their immune systems healthy long term. Testing is crucial for people who are engaging in behaviors that can transmit HIV. Knowing your HIV status is critical.”
The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy making environment. Find more about the News Service at khi.org/newsservice or contact us at (785) 783-2529.