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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
FLORIDA: Health Fair Focuses on Hispanics
Erik Maza
June 29, 2009
Orlando Sentinel (06.28.09) - Monday, June 29, 2009

Orlando's largest health fair for Latinos was held at the Central Florida Fairgrounds on Saturday. Organized by the nonprofit Hispanic Health Initiatives (HHI) to help uninsured and underinsured Hispanics, the event offered residents vision, cholesterol and blood sugar screenings, as well as HIV testing.

This year's ninth annual fair coincided with National HIV Testing Day. In Florida, 38-41 percent of Hispanics are uninsured, census data show. Nationally, the rate of new HIV infections among Hispanics in 2006 was three times the rate among non-Hispanic whites, according to CDC.

"We do it to help the community get at least one medical exam," said Josephine Mercado, HHI's director. "These are diagnostic exams, and if they found out something bad, then we direct them to a doctor." "Is anybody here waiting for testing? Make sure to grab some condoms," shouted Raj Hiralal, HIV/AIDS program supervisor for the Orange County Health Department, which offered free screenings for hepatitis, syphilis, and HIV. Maria Vargas, 50, raised her hand. "I've always been afraid of these things, and my son tells me, 'Afraid of what?'" said Vargas, whose son Andres Henao, 27, persuaded her to get tested at the fair. "I just woke up this morning and told her, 'Let's do it together,'" Henao said. About 60 people underwent testing for STDs.

Many of those participating in the health screenings were recent immigrants without access to regular medical care or too busy to get tested in a traditional clinical setting, said Hiralal. "It's a family event on a weekend, there's entertainment and food," Hiralal said. "It's an opportunity for people to get a lot of other tests done, and if you're there, why not get an HIV test as well."

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