To raise awareness for National HIV Testing Day, Walgreens is again offering free testing, expanding the freebie to 47 stores in 50 cities. A spokesperson for the nation’s largest drugstore says that response was so positive last year -- the first year it offered free screenings -- that it decided to double the number of participating stores.
And in 138 additional stores, it is publicizing the free testing, using posters, postcards and in-store audio. It also plans to promote the message on New York Times Square’s digital display, the largest billboard of its kind in the country. (In 550 stores in heavily affected areas, Walgreens has special programs, including pharmacists offering one-on-one medication and counseling.)
The idea is to increase outreach and awareness of the importance of testing, she says. “Not many people will volunteer to be tested and it still is taboo,” she says. “So we’re hoping to help dispel the stigma around testing. Walgreens offers many tests. By making it confidential, you could be going in for a blood pressure check.”
The program, in partnership with the nonprofit Greater Than AIDS, is scheduled to run from 3 to 7 p.m., June 27 to June 29, in Walgreens in 20 cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.
Of the more than 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S. today, an estimated one in five -- or nearly a quarter of a million people -- do not know it. One-third of those who are positive are diagnosed so late in the course of their infection they develop AIDS within one year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current recommendations call for all adults and adolescents to be tested for HIV at least once as a routine part of health care, and for those at an increased risk to be tested at least annually.
Greater Than AIDS has also kicked off a new PSA campaign this year, unveiling new outdoor media messages urging Americans to get tested for HIV. The “I Got Tested” campaign features real people’s stories of testing and encourages others to “join the movement.” (Univision Network is running Spanish-language versions.) Ads feature such actors as Jason George (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Nadine Ellis (“Let’s stay together”), Naturi Naughton (“The Client”) and Dennis Haysbert (“24,” “The Unit.”)