Houston organization pushes for people to get tested for HIV

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There were luncheons and observances around the Houston area, observing World AIDS Day, to mark the passing of those who died from the virus, medical advances made in recent years, and to call for more research that could result in a cure or vaccine.

In southwest Houston, a non-profit called Bee Busy, Inc went about the work it does daily- getting people tested for the HIV virus. People sat in the waiting room of its office in a 6 story office building, and a few blocks away, a different operation took shape on a strip center parking lot.

It's called pop-up testing. All that's required is a yellow tent with the non profit's name, a table, and forms for clients. Among the incentives today- a voucher for fried chicken at a fast food drive through a few yards away.

"We go to apartment complexes, to convenience stores, to places where people feel comfortable to do the testing, " said founder Darcy Padget.

That may be why Bee Busy has a high volume of testing, and why, in the past 6 weeks, it's diagnosed a dozen cases of HIV. "We have the highest number of HIV positives among non profits in Houston," said staff member Thomas Dickerson, who also does testing.

Medical advances have changed the outcomes of many HIV patients, who take medication that can prevent the virus from developing into AIDS. It's a blessing, say those with Bee Busy, but it may have also made people less cautious in their behavior.

That's why non profits also promote awareness and education, about how the virus is transmitted, and how it can be avoided. Sometimes that education comes too late.

"When you see a couple come through the door, and the husband tests positive and the wife doesn't, they look at each other and say how does that happen. We should be talking about this everyday, and loudly," said board member Wanda Adams, who's also an HISD board member.

At its pop up testing table, people walked up to have their blood drawn. Some didn't even need to be persuaded. "We collaborate about how to get the message out to those who need to hear it," said a team member.

Sometimes it takes them to dark places- near crack houses, drug shooting galleries, and seedy motels. Other times, they go to suburban areas. "HIV doesn't discriminate by income, race, or age," said Padget. "It can affect anyone who's sexually active."

For more information on free testing, and other services provided, go to beebusy.org

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