Richmond may be “Easy to Love,” but easy loving has its drawbacks: HIV/AIDS and syphilis cases in the city are suddenly on the rise.
“There are an ever-increasing number of HIV infection rates as well as syphilis in the city,” says Susan Tellier, HIV-testing services coordinator with the Fan Free Clinic. Her group was recently briefed by the Virginia Department of Health, she says, which has identified cluster areas within the city showing increases that are worthy of concern.
As a result, a multiagency program called Citywide PUSH has been set up to start testing for the diseases. On Dec. 12, the group aims to test as many as 600 people for HIV and syphilis.
Officials with the Virginia Department of Health were unable to immediately provide statistics on AIDS, but did provide data on the increase in syphilis cases.
In Chesterfield County, there were nine reported cases of syphilis in 2007. This year, as of November, there were 26. Henrico County had eight cases in 2007, compared with 32 cases as of November. In Richmond, there were 52 cases last year compared with 80 this year.
Tammie Woodson, sexually transmitted disease surveillance coordinator with the state Health Department, says the cases are clustered in the city's South Side where it touches Chesterfield and in the East End edging on Henrico.
“What we're looking at is where we know people hang out,” Woodson says. “That's why we're targeting several night clubs [for testing]. … Often times people will come out and have a good time partying and that's where they're meeting up — and that's where we're hoping to get the testing done.”
All testing is free and confidential, Woodson says.
Syphilis is on the rise across the country in both the homosexual and heterosexual population but Woodson doesn't know why numbers are up in Richmond. “If we could answer that question we could answer a lot more,” she says.
Testing for HIV and syphilis will be conducted Friday, Dec. 12.
The locations are:
• Daily Planet, 517 W. Grace St., noon to 4 p.m.
• Crossover Ministry, 108 Cowardin Ave., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
• Minority Health Consortium, 208 E. Clay St., noon to midnight
• Fan Free Clinic, 1010 N. Thompson St., 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
• Fielden's, 2033 W. Broad St., 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
• The corner of 25th and Venable streets in Church Hill, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
• Boaz and Ruth, 3030 Meadowbridge Road, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
• Godfrey's, 308 E. Grace St., 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
• St. Paul's Baptist Church, south campus, 700 E. Belt Blvd., noon to 4 p.m.