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D.C. Mayor Unveils News HIV Testing Campaign

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DC's Mayor unveiled a new campaign to increase HIV testing but it may lack the comprehensive approach AIDS activists want.

Adrian Fenty's $225,000 marketing strategy--called "Ask For the Test", essentially consists of TV, radio, print and Metro ads that encourage DC residents to make HIV testing as routine during doctor visits as measuring one's blood pressure.

Fenty was flanked by half a dozen health department and HIV/AIDS allies when he made the announcement in Northeast Washington.

"We don't want to make the mistake of years past where we focus testing on one particular area because when you start focusing on one group you leave someone behind and people get complacent," said Fenty.

But the Mayor is under criticism from activists who say he's consistently placed too much emphasis on testing and not enough on prevention or patient care.

Larry Bryant is the D.C. Field Officer for the AIDS activist group Housing Works.

"We don't need any more billboards. We're putting all this money into media campaigns that take us nowhere. We're not getting people into care and we're not doing anything to reduce the number of positive tests we're getting. We're just making more noise about the positive tests but we're not doing anything to reduce infection rates."

Dr. Shannon Hader of the city's HIV/AIDS Administration was at Fenty's side when he unveiled the campaign. She countered that criticism by saying most studies show that once people know they are HIV infected the vast majority take action to prevent transmission to others, and that testing is a cornerstone to the any AIDS response.

Mana Rabiee reports...

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