This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference from our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more of that coverage.
As we approach World AIDS Day at the start of next month, a local group wants to help young people in the community learn their HIV status.
The Daydream Sunshine Initiative, a Bowie, Maryland, nonprofit dedicated to offering support to people living with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is partnering with the Mount Rainier Police Department to offer free HIV and Hepatitis-C screening to residents.
“We just wanted to provide free, accessible health screening to the community,” said Devanshi Kanani, the outreach coordinator for the Daydream Sunshine Initiative.
Although the number of new HIV infections are down in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 1.2 million who have HIV, about 13% don’t know they have it and need testing.
Nicaury Lora Vasquez, social services coordinator for the City of Mount Rainier, said it’s important for people, especially young people, to know their status.
“There’s power in knowledge. The more that you know, the more that you can keep those around you safe, the more you can keep yourself safe,” Lora Vasquez said.
People with HIV are living longer and healthier lives due to antiretroviral therapy (ART), but Lora Vasquez said knowing your status is part of “taking care of your body the way you need to.”
She told WTOP that young people shouldn’t be afraid of getting tested because, “it’s something that will save you and your partner, or partners, in the long run.”
The screenings will take place on Friday, Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 3249 Rhode Island Avenue in Mount Rainier, Maryland. Gift cards for all testing participants will be available and no appointments are necessary.
They will also be offering free clothes for residents who need clothing and are accepting donations.