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By Cameron Wallace
In observance of National HIV Testing Day, Walgreens is partnering with Greater Than AIDS and various local agencies to offer free screenings at 230 stores across the country through Thursday, June 29.
Regular HIV testing is crucial for prevention and education. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, approximately 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV, and an estimated 166,000 of those people don’t know they’re infected. The CDC ranks Houston 12th for new HIV diagnoses among cities nationwide.
Roy Armstrong, regional healthcare director for Walgreens, said during a news conference in Houston on Tuesday morning that HIV is “not like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.”
“There’s a stigma, so people are reluctant to get tested,” Armstrong said inside the Walgreens store at 5200 Westheimer Road. “They’re worried about people finding out, so the disease continues to not be controlled because of a lack of education.”
Education and finances are huge issues for HIV prevention. Getting tested for HIV at Walgreens on a normal day would cost anywhere from $90-$150 depending on the services and the customer’s insurance, so free testing opportunities are critical for those who would be unable to pay otherwise.
The Houston Health Department and 97.7 The Box are partnering with Walgreens on the pop-up clinic in the parking lot at 5200 Westheimer. In addition to screenings for HIV and Hepatitis C, the clinic is offering free reproductive healthcare and insurance assessments.
“It’s most important for us to promote awareness of what the services are that people can access that can help them,” said Marlene McNeese, chief of the Health Department’s Bureau of HIV/STD Prevention. “We believe in promoting awareness and giving people information so they can make healthy choices for themselves. What’s most important is making sure people are educated.”
The pop-up clinic will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Thursday. Those who get tested at this location will receive free tickets to the Dub Car Show on Sunday, July 30.
Other Walgreens locations, including the store at 3317 Montrose Blvd., are offering free testing from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. through Thursday. Legacy Community Health Services is partnering with Walgreens to offer testing at the Montrose location.
For a full list of Walgreens locations offering free testing, go here.