HIV testing event sets world record in Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Teen Aids Peer Corps said it set a new world record in Norfolk Wednesday when 24 young people were simultaneously tested for HIV in public.

WAVY/Walter Hildebrand
WAVY/Walter Hildebrand

The idea behind the public testing is to break the stigma. The approach met controversy in Virginia Beach last year when the group held an HIV testing event at Mt. Trashmore. But there was none of that Wednesday afternoon at Northside Park in Norfolk.

Dr. John Chittick, a Harvard graduate and AIDS expert, started publicly testing young people last year in four states and Washington, D.C. He told WAVY.com the results of his study are being presented this week at an international AIDS conference is Australia.

“They’ll be hearing that young people prefer being tested with their peers, that young people are intimidated by adult institutions, they just don’t want to go into something that says ‘infectious diseases,’” Chittick said.

WAVY/Walter Hildebrand
WAVY/Walter Hildebrand

10 On Your Side asked teens at Wednesday’s event why they chose to test in public and not the privacy of a doctor’s office.

“It kind of like takes the stress off, or the intimidation off, and also, like he was doing a raffle, so it kind of took your mind off of things,” Helen Duenas said.

Nia Riddick said she liked the built-in support group that the event provided.

“I didnt’ think I had too much to worry about, but you always get that little bit of nervousness that it could be positive,” Riddick said.

WAVY/Walter Hildebrand
WAVY/Walter Hildebrand

If that were the case, counselors were on hand. But for Riddick, she was in the clear: “There’s no line, which means I am negative, which is good.”

And Duenas had the same sense of relief: “It’s fine, I’m still negative, so it’s good.”

In fact, everyone at the event left with a negative result and a positive outlook.

Teens are the fastest growing at risk group for HIV-AIDS, and Norfolk has the most cases of HIV in the state of Virginia. The oral swab test they used takes about 20 minutes. You can also buy them in drug stores for about $40.

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