Richmond teens are the target group for free HIV testing

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The group TeenAIDS PeerCorps, whose methods have sometimes been called controversial, is looking for teens and young adults to take a free HIV test on the streets of Richmond.

The target: two busy parts of Richmond which were near the Capitol building and Carytown.

Their goal: get teens and young adults to take a free HIV test. It's all out in the open.  Eighteen-year-old BreAna Beale tried it out with her mother by her side.

"I think my age group is aware I just feel as though they need to keep it a secret," says BreAna.

"It's important to me to show take the next step, be responsible for your actions," says Anna Beale, BreAna's mother.

The testing is done with an oral swab kit, the results are available in 20 minutes.

"Twenty-five percent of all new cases of HIV in the U.S. occur between ages 13 and 23," says Dr. John Chittick who heads the non-profit.  "This is astronomical.  The problem is 90% of young people and teenagers have never been tested."

But their method does raise some eyebrows: they target teenagers, it's out in public and the whole thing is recorded.  The group says it's for documentation.  But Dr. Chittick says this is about spreading awareness.

The cost for each kit is about $39. The group says they buy each one over the counter. And by doing it out here for free- they say it actually encourages young people to take the HIV test

If a test looks like it may have a positive result, Dr. Chittick says they stop recording and he counsels the person on taking the next step.

"We want to break the stigma of AIDs," he said. "Our purpose is not to embarrass anybody but what is amazing, you'll find that kids sign up for this they like it."

The Fan Free Clinic in Richmond also gives free HIV testing. According to the clinic, teens in Virginia do not need a parent's consent to get tested or treated for sexually transmitted infections. You can contact Susan Tellier at 804-358-6343 ext. 140 or stellier@fanfreeclinic.org if you want to learn more about HIV testing.

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