Afiya Center Set To Host HIV Testing Event

Afiya Center Set To Host HIV Testing Event
NIAID via Wikimedia Commons

On Saturday, June 29 the Afiya Center will be hosting their eleventh annual “Get Tested, Grab A Bite” at Glendale Park in Dallas. The yearly HIV testing event has been a hallmark feature for the Afiya Center, which is the only reproductive justice organization in North Texas founded by, and primarily serving, Black women.

The Afiya Center was founded in 2008 to address the major health disparities that existed for Black women and girls who had contracted HIV. And their work with HIV treatment is even more critical now as Dallas County reported a thirty percent increase in HIV amongst men and 6.5 percent in women in 2021.

Earlier this year, the Afiya Center released their State of Black Womxn Report, which estimated that in 2021 there were 11,788 Black women in Texas living with HIV (13.6 times higher than white women). Distressingly, the report notes that a third of Black women living with HIV in Texas have not been connected to a care or treatment program. 

For Marsha Jones, the Executive Director of the Afiya Center, Saturday’s event goes well beyond HIV testing. There are other, comprehensive STI screenings as well (that are all confidential to comply with HIPAA standards). Then there’s the prevalence of food vendors, radio stations, and play areas for children. “It’s almost like a family reunion,” said Jones in an interview with Texas Signal.  

The unique structure of the Afiya Center is for Jones a reason why “Get Tested, Grab A Bite” is so necessary. “We don’t just serve, we center women,” said Jones. Much of the leadership of the Afiya Center is compromised of women living with HIV. 

“We show people that life happens,” said Jones. For many Black women in Texas, they do not see themselves in HIV programs throughout the state. And that feeling is prevalent well beyond HIV prevention or treatment, as indicated by this year’s State of Black Womxn Report.

A lack of access to mental health care programs has triggered rising suicide rates in Black women in Texas. Black patients are also less likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety.

The report also discusses the higher rate of maternal mortality faced by Black women in the state, as well as the disproportionate number of Black Texans impacted by the state’s decision to not expand Medicaid coverage. Asked to sum up this year’s report, Jones is succinct. “My takeaway is we still have a lot of work to do.”

“Get Tested, Grab A Bite” is at least one step in the right direction.