Free HIV Testing

A group of local health agencies and community organizations will provide free HIV testing in Houston's Hispanic community tomorrow, as part of the annual National HIV Testing Day. Jim Bell reports.

The free HIV testing will be available from 8 am till 3 pm tomorrow at the Spring Branch Community Health Center, at 1615 Hillendahl in Northwest Houston. Houston Health Department spokesman Porfirio Villareal says HIV is a growing problem among Hispanics.

"Hispanics in Houston and Harris County represent 21 percent of the more than 16 thousand HIV infections reported since 1999."

Villareal blames ignorance and fear for this situation. There's always a new generation of young people who know nothing about HIV and how to protect themselves. Many Hispanic women are afraid to be tested for fear their husbands or boyfriends will think they've been unfaithful, and many Hispanic men don't see themselves as being at high risk. Undocumented immigrants are afraid they'll be arrested and deported, which Villareal says is not true because the Health Department does not share names with other agencies.

Villareal says the Latino HIV Task Force is just one of the groups working to reduce HIV rates in Houston's minority communities.

"We have approaches in the African-American community, the Hispanic Community, the gay community, so there's a lot of efforts being done to try to minimize the impact that HIV and AIDS has in our community." 

There's more information on the Latino HIV Task Force and National HIV Testing Day.

Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.