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Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, along with Detroit based-Gospel Against AIDS (GAA) and several city churches, have teamed to offer free HIV testing and counseling at selected metro Walgreens. Under the banner theme “K.Y.S.”(Know Your Status), the aforementioned entities are proactively encouraging people in the community to know their HIV status. This knowledge, according to organizers, will be learned with T.L.C. (Testing for HIV, Learning about prevention and transmission, and getting Linked into care and treatment).

On Saturday, Nov. 19, from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., GAA will team with Third New Hope Baptist Church, powered by Dr. E.L. Branch, senior pastor, to hold a “K.Y.S.” HIV testing event at Walgreens, located at 1921 East 8 Mile. Rd. at Dequindre in Warren, Mich. The event comes on the heels of similar HIV testing dates (Nov. 5 and Nov. 12) at two other Walgreens in metro Detroit, respectively held in partnership with either Victory Fellowship Church or Pleasant Grove MBC.

“We at Third New Hope are looking forward to supporting and partnering with Gospel Against AIDS and Walgreens on Nov. 19,” said Branch. “We also want to make sure that our church continues to be vigilance in its efforts to give the kind of support necessary to individuals and families impacted by HIV and AIDS in the community.”

According to Rosalind Andrews-Worthy, founder, executive director and CEO of Gospel Against AIDS, the Christian faith-based organization began in 1999. The organization was founded in the faces of many naysayers who felt that churches, as targeted venues, would never get involved with HIV and AIDS issues on any level.

Yet, with persistence, Andrews-Worthy began talking and meeting with pastors, ministers, elders, bishops, and other church stakeholders to convince them of the importance and relevancy their participation meant to effectively addressing HIV and AIDS. Once a church was onboard, Andrews-Worthy was successful in implementing AIDS 101, which informed the church how the virus is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and ultimately help the church fully understand how HIV/AIDS information can be used to better educate the congregation.

Since its inception, GAA has interfaced with about 200 churches in metro Detroit, of which approximately eight have become HIV testing sites. Additionally, GAA has reached another 150 churches nationally, and numerous ones internationally, to include Africa, Costa Rico and South America.

Andrews-Worthy is excited by the collaboration of Detroit churches with Walgreens.

“This venture is the first time that a large corporation, like Walgreens, has ever partnered with a Christian faith-based HIV testing organization that collaborates with churches,” said Andrews-Worthy. “I’m excited, because I’m a servant on assignment to curtail the spread of HIV and AIDS citywide, statewide, nationwide and worldwide.”

Andrews-Worthy said GAA’s certified HIV testers and counselors have been present at all Walgreens testing events, in order to provide “confidential” results within minutes. If anyone tests positive for HIV, counselors will provide needed sources to where follow-up services and care are offered. Participating church ministers and other ministries are also on site for anyone requesting prayer and spiritual guidance for any reason.

“By providing K.Y.S. with a little T.L.C., we will be addressing a longstanding need while lifting the stigma surrounding HIV testing,” said Andrews- Worthy. “Our goal is to replicate and make locations at Walgreens permanent HIV testing sites.”

“Walgreens is committed to eradicating HIV/AIDS in our lifetime,” said Heather Kauffman , director of Health Services for Walgreens.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that all people should be tested for HIV as a part of their respective medical care. CDC and the Kaiser Family Foundation report that of the more than 1.2 million people living with HIV in America, about one in seven is not aware of being infected.

While HIV and AIDS have become major epidemics in this country since the early 1980s, African Americans have disproportionately been affected. Case-in-point: The Kaiser Family Foundation states that of the more than 1.2 million people with HIV in the country, one-half of the cases are contracted by African Americans. Although blacks are about 13% of the nation’s population, they account for 44 percent of new HIV infections.

“As a pastor, as a church, as citizens, it’s important that we all take the necessary steps to inform our community about HIV testing, and how to stop HIV and AIDS,” said Branch, who has served as a GAA spokesperson, trainer, and have travelled to Ghana, Africa to preach and teach about prevention. “It’s important that we continue to talk about HIV and AIDS, make sure that the right information is out there, and keep convincing people to get tested to know their status.”

Andrews-Worthy agrees.

“Gospel Against AIDS will continue to provide HIV testing in the community,” she said. “We will continue to train churches to become testing sites, and continue to be a trusted source rooted in the gospel to address and one day eradicate HIV and AIDS.”

For more information about K.Y.S. (Know Your Status) and future HIV testing dates and sites, call 313.341.5989, or log on to http://www.gospelaa.org.

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