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National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day will be recognized on Feb. 7 and South Arkansas Fights AIDS will offer free oral HIV testing from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. that day.

South Arkansas Fights AIDS Executive Director Janet Beane said the local office at 526 W. Faulkner in El Dorado will offer the free tests to help spread awareness of the issue in the black community. Regular office hours are 10 until 11:30 a.m. and from 1 until 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

This year’s theme is “Stay the Course, the Fight Is Not Over,” according to a news release from Regina Waits, regional resource consultant, HIV/AIDS Regional Resource Network Program, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Every year individuals and organizations across the nation participate in National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to promote HIV education, testing, community involvement and treatment in black communities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared to other races and ethnicities, African Americans account for a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses, those living with HIV and those ever receiving a diagnosis of AIDS.

In 2015, 48 percent or 8,702 of AIDS diagnoses in the United States were among African Americans.

In 2014, 3,591 African Americans died of AIDS, accounting for 53 percent of total deaths attributed to HIV that year in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.

South Arkansas Fights AIDS, in addition to free HIV testing, also provides brochures on sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence and related topics and presents educational programs throughout the community. SAFA also provides direct services, including a monthly food pantry, for those infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS.

For more information or to schedule an oral HIV test, call the SAFA office at 870-875-2099.

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