December 1st marks World Aids Day, and a group in Abilene are working to get everyone tested for free.
Kayla Brown is a volunteer at the Mercy Health Care Center.
“I go to Hardin Simmons University, I’m a senior. I actually graduate this December,” Brown said.
Brown isn’t just focused on graduation.
“We are offering free HIV screenings today. We also include in the free package a screening for syphilis and gonorrhea, chlamydia,” registered nurse, Cari Waller said.
Brown is passionate about public health, and started a project at the center.
“Abilene has some of the highest STD rates in the state of Texas so I definitely think it’s an issue,” Brown said.
Staff said that over 600 people were diagnosed with chlamydia in Taylor County last year; however, many of them can’t afford a $10 test.
The center opened their doors for a free testing session for college students in August, with the chance to receive a gift card for groceries.
“We had about a 25% of positives from that testing clinic and those were people not coming in because they had symptoms, they were just coming in to get the gift card,” Waller said.
They were able to hold another free session for the public Wednesday.
This is something Brown hopes will happen more often.
“I definitely think, like I said sexual health, it doesn’t get enough recognition,” Brown said.
The project takes getting the word out with help from volunteers through a program called VISTA.
“We’ve been gathering and outreaching in the community to spread awareness about the event,” representative Alyssa Guzman said.
It also takes educating the public about what they may fear -- a positive HIV test result.
“The treatments for HIV are very advanced and with early detection people can start medications and actually live a very normal life,” Waller said.
Staff said in 2015, about 200 people tested positive for HIV in the area.