Nine years ago, Mildred Richard never imagined that the simple task of cleaning her Whitehaven apartment and taking trash out to the dumpster would change her life forever.
Then age 22, she was raped. She later tested positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
"It was put to me in a form I didn't understand," she said. Richard, who had never heard of HIV, looked blankly at the doctor. "I'm looking back, like, what is that?"
As odd as it sounds, many people still are uneducated about HIV and how it is spread. Between 2003 and 2007, the most recent data available, Memphis/Shelby County saw more than 400 new cases each year. That number is the highest among Tennessee metropolitan areas.
As part of National HIV Testing Day on June 27th, the Community HIV Network and the Cocaine Alcohol Awareness Program will offer free testing.
Last year, Community HIV tested 100 people. This year, the organization will use an OraSure swab, which takes between five and seven days for results.
Thanks to a recent grant, the Cocaine Alcohol Awareness Program will also offer free screenings this year, using the OraQuick test to provide same-day results.
Cocaine Alcohol Awareness' screenings will be offered at First Impressions Remix barbershop in Whitehaven Saturday, June 27th. Community HIV will offer testing at its location near Poplar and East Parkway on Tuesday, June 30th.
For Richard, educating herself about the virus has led to volunteer work and speaking out about the disease. Initially depressed over her diagnosis, she says that many people would rather not know if they are infected.
"You should know," Richard said.
Officials suggest anyone who has had unprotected sex or shared any type of needles should get tested.