KGET TV 17 (03.27.13)
Aids Weekly Plus
A local organization called Magdalene Hope recently teamed up with California’s Kern County Department of Public Health to offer free oral HIV testing to the high-risk female sex workers on Union Avenue near 8th street. Doug Bennett, founder of Magdalene Hope, felt that even though the women live a risky lifestyle, it is unlikely that they would seek HIV testing. He explained that the women were being used to make money and had to stay in a certain area. If they were away for a half hour getting tested or some other unapproved purpose, they could be beaten.
Magdalene Hope and the Department of Public Health recently began offering free HIV tests in locations frequented by prostitutes. Bennett noted that the idea was to focus on the sex workers on Union Avenue as they are not able to leave the area. They live, eat, sleep, and work in that vicinity. Denise Smith, public health disease control director, stated that it was important to reach out to people at higher risk of contracting the virus. She felt it was important to give them the opportunity to be tested so that they would know their status and, if positive, be able to get treatment.
Bennett said that of 21 women tested, all had negative results; he hoped that the tests increased their awareness of the disease. He planned to double his efforts so that by September, the number of people tested could reach the 80s and be more than 100 by the end of the year. Bennett stated that free mobile testing would be available every few months, with the next session planned for June. Free HIV testing is available regularly at the public health department.