Saturday, December 1 marks the 30th World AIDS Day. GO CARE honors this date with a reception titled "A Time to Support and Remember" at 6 p.m. in West Monroe.
"We're in a time where everyone's excited about the holidays, and there are times of joy and reflection," says Mark L. Windham, CEO of GO CARE. "A very important time for those of us in the field of HIV is World AIDS Day." World AIDS Day was created in 1988 to support people living with HIV/AIDS and to remember people who have died from the infection.
GO CARE serves Region 8, the 12-parish region that makes up Northeast Louisiana. The clinic offers free testing for HIV, Hepatitis C, and syphilis. GO CARE accepts walk-in appointments, and patients often receive results in 20 minutes.
HIV/AIDS affects people of all genders, races, and backgrounds. "Be Positive You're Negative" is a GO CARE campaign funded through the Southern AIDS Coalition. The campaign focuses on the African American population, which has the highest number of new HIV diagnoses. "This campaign will allow us to pay for advertising through billboards, radio campaigns, and goodie bags for public events to encourage the African American population to come in for testing."
The opioid crisis also affects HIV/AIDS diagnoses. GO CARE aims to help intravenous drug users, who are contracting the virus through needle-sharing. GO CARE collaborated with Northeast Delta Human Services Authority to send out community-based outreach workers. This effort solely concentrates on the education and testing of IV drug users. As with anyone tested, the faster a diagnosis is reached, the faster treatment can begin for individuals tested positive for HIV.
Windham stresses the importance of getting tested for the virus, saying that everyone needs have an HIV test at least once in their lifetime. "If you are in situations where you're at risk of contracting HIV, you need to be tested once a year." GO CARE is located at 1801 N. 7th St. in West Monroe.