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Barbara Lee gets tested.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was among House members who held a Capitol Hill news conference before going to get tested for HIV today, in an effort to call attention to National HIV Testing Day.

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Debra McCrae, from Unity Health Care Inc.‘s Project Orion, at left, watches as Lee places an oral HIV Test swab in its receptacle; rapid tests provide accurate results in about 20 minutes. Lee’s staff confirms that she has her results, and that they’re completely confidential.

Lee has been an outspoken advocate of efforts to reduce HIV infections both here in her district — where Alameda County in 1998 became the nation’s first municipality to declare a state of emergency over the disproportionate number of AIDS cases in its African-American community — and abroad, particularly in Africa.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States today is as high as 1.2 million, and more than a quarter of those infected don’t know it. Increasing test availability and encouraging people to seek out counseling and testing can significantly reduce the disease’s spread, but the stigma around HIV/AIDS and anxiety involving the test itself have proved to be barriers. So the National Association of People with AIDS works with the CDC to produce National HIV Testing Day; this year’s theme is “Take the test, take control,” emphasizing that just getting tested can change behavior regardless of the diagnosis. For more information on National HIV Testing Day, or to find a local testing site in your area, visit the CDC’s website at http://hivtest.org/

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.