As state leaders mark the 25th annual World AIDS Day, there are new ways for state residents to get tested.
This morning, the first of what leaders hope will be many people got tested for HIV inside a Walgreens pharmacy in downtown Wilmington. Executive Director for the Delaware HIV Consortium Peter Houle says the pharmacy chain is the first to open its doors for HIV testing. "Our goal is to reduce the stigma of HIV testing in non-traditional settings such as this Walgreens pharmacy." Houle says there are trained counselors from the Consortium on hand to talk with people getting tested about their results.
While the mortality rate from AIDS has dramatically decreased, the number of new cases has stayed relatively steady. Director of the Delaware Division of Public Health Dr. Karyl Rattay says, "We have come along way, but still 112 cases of HIV infection and 78 cases of AIDS were diagnosed this past year. 46 people died in the state of Delaware last year from AIDS. That's still way too many."
AIDS disproportionately affects African Americans in Delaware. Out of the 3,470 people in the state with HIV/AIDS, 2,259 are African American. Mayor Baker says there are some neighborhoods in Wilmington with high rates of HIV/AIDS especially in zip codes 19801,19802, and 19805. "It's just a real hard job of educating and getting people to practice safe sex. Stop being afraid of condom words and all these things that we run from." Baker says he believes HIV/AIDS will be conquered, "Might not be in my lifetime, but it's going to be conquered because we've got too many people who care."
In addition to performing HIV tests at Walgreens, the state has also implemented routine opt-out testing for HIV. Governor Markell signed a law this June that allows for HIV testing to become part of a routine physical exam for all Delaware patients over the age of 13. Patients who do not want to be tested for HIV are able to opt-out. The state no longer requires a separate written consent form for HIV testing.