Health & Science

Houston HIV Outreach Switches Gears, Attempts to Reach More Houstonians

Every summer, Houston hosts the biggest HIV testing event in the country, the “Hip Hop fo HIV” concert. This year the event is being changed to appeal to a wider swath of Houstonians.

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Every summer, Houston hosts the biggest HIV testing event in the country, the “Hip Hop for HIV” concert. This year the event is being changed to appeal to a wider swath of Houstonians

In past years, the Houston event was called “Hip Hop for HIV.” Take a free HIV test, get a ticket to a hip hop concert.

The hip-hop concept was wildly successful, especially for young people and African-Americans, according to Marlene McNeese of the City of Houston’s Health and Human Services Department.

More than 55,000 people have been tested over the past seven summers.

But to reach even more groups, like Latinos, the incentive this year will be free tickets to an Astros game, followed by a concert.

“People are having a really hard time talking about it for fear of being ostracized and disconnected from the people they love,” McNeese said.

The concert line-up will be announced in the next couple of days. The city is partnering with KRBE 104.1 FM, a top-forty pop station with a diverse audience. (In prior years, the partner station was 97.7 FM, “The Box.”)

McNeese and other HIV advocates appeared on Houston Matters. McNeese noted that among women getting infected with HIV, African-American women make up the majority.

She also says Latinos are among the groups in Houston that have limited access to health care, which affects their ability to access testing and treatment.

Dr. Robin Hardwicke of UT Health talked about the promise of Truvada, a daily pill which can prevent infection.

“Maybe a husband is positive, a wife is negative,” Hardwicke explained. “She wants to stay negative. If she takes this Truvada, one pill once a day, her chances of getting infected are reduced severely.”

Hardwicke says other at-risk groups, like some young gay men should also consider taking the pill.

“Not everyone can negotiate a condom at all times,” she said. “Not everyone thinks or wants to use a condom. They’re not seeing people die like they used to, so they’re possibly taking more chances and risk in having unprotected sex.”

Testing starts Friday at various clinics across Houston, culminating in the free baseball game and concert July 26.  For details, visit HoustonHitsHome.org.

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