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Washington D.C. Offers Free HIV Tests to Combat Spread of AIDS

Washington D.C. has begun to offer a rapid oral HIV test free to residents -- the first program of its kind. The director of the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration discusses the program's aim to increase awareness, draw in more patients and encourage disease prevention.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    In the nation's capital this summer, a new effort is under way to fight AIDS through testing. Jeffrey Brown has that story.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    It's as easy as brushing your teeth and takes only 20 minutes, but up now, at least, it's hardly been routine for most people to get an AIDS test. The District of Columbia wants to change that and has begun offering this rapid oral HIV test free to residents. It's the first such testing program in the country.

    To combat the highest rate of HIV infections in the nation, the District of Columbia launched this sweeping new program that city officials hope will increase awareness, draw more patients in for treatment, and encourage prevention of the disease.

  • WASHINGTON RESIDENT:

    No matter how safe you are, it's always better to know.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    An estimated 25,000 of the city's nearly 600,000 residents are infected, more than 4 percent of the population.

  • WASHINGTON RESIDENT:

    One in 20 is just really surprising to me. I didn't know the rate was that high in D.C.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Now the district is offering free tests at mobile vans, emergency rooms, doctors' offices, and community health centers. Doctors are encouraged to offer the test as part of routine checkups.

    The city is also rolling out postcards, banners, and ads like this one to get the word out.

  • PUBLIC SERVICE SPEAKER:

    You've got to go and take this test, man, and you should come with.

  • PUBLIC SERVICE SPEAKER:

    What kind of test?

  • PUBLIC SERVICE SPEAKER:

    HIV.

  • PUBLIC SERVICE SPEAKER:

    That's all right. Not me. I use protection every time. I think everything's clean.

  • PUBLIC SERVICE SPEAKER:

    Well, you think. Are you for sure? If not, you should go.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a quarter of Americans with HIV don't know they have it.

  • WASHINGTON RESIDENT:

    I'd rather be sure than not be sure.

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