LAURINBURG — Scotland County Health Department is continuing its tradition of participating in the National HIV Testing Day.
This year, the annual H.E.A.R.T. in the Park event will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday at the James L. Morgan Complex on Turnpike Road.
H.E.A.R.T, which stands for HIV Education and Resource Team, wants to raise awareness about the impact HIV is having on the community and the fact that the number of people living with this disease is increasing significantly in the county.
There are 127 cases of residents diagnosed and living with HIV in Scotland County, with young black homosexual men being the highest number affected.
Brenda Tyson, H.E.A. R. T. co-chair, said people often don’t get tested out of fear.
“I say you should be more afraid or embarrassed not to do it. You’re not the first one. We try to make our patients feel comfortable. If you don’t tell people why you are there no one will ever know,” she said. “You want to know, especially if you have behaviors that would put you more at risk.”
On-site testing will be available on Saturday by Robeson Health Care Corporation. Tyson said blood draw will not be drawn, but rapid saliva testing instead. There is no charge to attend the event, but any donations will benefit those in Scotland County living with HIV/or AIDS.
It takes approximately 21 days for results to be returned. The patient is given a code for their results. No one else has the code except the person giving the results.
According to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention those who are at a higher risk of contracting HIV are blood transfusion patients, if you share needles during injection drug use and/or have multiple sex partners.
It is estimated that 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV. Nearly 1 in 8 of those don’t know they are infected. Almost 50,000 people become newly infected with the virus each year.
Southern states make up approximately 44 percent of all people living with HIV. In North Carolina, if current rates continue 1 in 93 people living in the state will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime.
It is recommended that anyone between the ages of 13-64 get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime.
Scotland County Health Department encourages everyone to know their status, so “GYT”, Get Yourself Tested. The county Health Department also provides STD testing by appointment. It is anonymous and free.
Tyson said while educational, the event is also family friendly with activities for for adults and children. The splash pad will be available for children to enjoy from 10 a.m. to noon for free. There will also be games, music, refreshments and door prizes.
The event — for the first seven year, consisted of an annual walk-a-thon. But was expanded about three years ago to H.E.A.R.T. in the Park.
B.A. R. T. or Border Belt Aids Team is also sponsoring the event. This year, Scotland County’s event is being held a week early because the park was not available on the actual National Testing Day.
For information about HIV/AIDS or the H.E.A.R.T. event, call Scotland County Health Department, Brenda Tyson, H.E.A.R.T co-chair, at 910-277-2470, Ext. 4415 or Tina Clark at Ext. 4466.
Reach Maria D. Grandy at 910-506-3171.