MIAMI – While the stigma of living with HIV/AIDS has lessened over the years and people afflicted with the disease are living longer, healthier lives thanks to evolved treatment and medication, thousands of people are still becoming infected each year.

In an effort to help people determine whether they have been infected, Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson hosted free HIV testing during a multi-site event held in observance of National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) on June 27. Congresswoman Wilson also took an HIV test and was joined by other elected officials including Senator Dwight Bullard (D-39), Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey M. Edmonson, City of North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin, and City of West Park Commissioner Thomas W. Dorsett.

“The CDC reports that African-Americans are the largest ethnic group of new HIV cases, and Miami-Dade and Broward counties are numbers one and two in the country for new cases. The changing face of HIV/AIDS has brought about a change in public response. We have to raise awareness and keep working to end HIV. The cost in human capital and lost talent is too high,” said Congresswoman Wilson.

About 1.2 million people in the United States were living with HIV at the end of 2012, the most recent year for which this information is available from the Center for Disease Control. Of those people, about 13 percent, or one in eight, did not know they were infected.

Congresswoman Wilson delivered re- marks at a press conference at Frederica Wilson and Juanita Mann Health Center. Among the speakers at the conference were Florida Department of Health Miami-Dade County Administrator Dr. Lillian Rivera, Jessie Trice Community Health Center CEO Annie Neasman, and AIDS Healthcare Foundation Associate Director for Testing Programs Greg Jacques. Free, confidential HIV testing was also available at five other locations including Borinquen Health Care Center, Center For Haitian Studies, Jessie Trice Community Health Center, Koinonia Worship Center, and New Horizons Community Mental Health Center.

Congresswoman Wilson sponsored several bills to boost HIV/AIDS education and awareness throughout her career in public service. This year marks the 14th anniversary of a bill she sponsored in the Florida legislature to mandate HIV testing for prisoners upon their release from Florida prisons. The purpose of the bill was to confirm prisoners’ HIV status as they re-enter society and connect them to care if they were positive for HIV.

“I am grateful to everyone who came out to get tested. Getting tested and knowing your status is the first step to ending HIV,” said Congresswoman Wilson, “HIV/AIDS robs our communities of talent and productivity. The best way to fight the spread of the disease is to get tested, know your status, and get the treatment you need if you are HIV positive.”