JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Thursday is National HIV Testing Day.
Right now, there are more than one MILLION people living with HIV and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Jackson ranks 4th highest in the nation for HIV rates.
Today, organizations across the country gave the community an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get tested for free.
“During National HIV Testing Day, not only do we want everyone to get tested, we want you to know no matter what the outcome there are solutions for you,” said Deja Abdul-Haqq.
Abdul-Haqq is the director of organizational development for My Brothers Keeper, a community-based group that works with HIV infected individuals.
10,000 Mississippians live with HIV -- and many more are unaware of their infection.
“Talking about HIV and sexuality and gender understanding is a really big deal in the south," said Abdul-Haqq. "Once we start talking about it in the south more.. we will start to see a change in tide regarding our sexual and reproductive health.”
Abdul-Haqq says Jackson has an endemic on its hands and it’s OUR responsibility to put a stop to it.
“We have a responsibility to know our own status by getting tested and creating a safe place for people wanting to get tested," she said. "We all have a global responsibility to understand what HIV is and taking care of ourselves and each other.”
When it comes to knowing your HIV status, Abdul-Haqq says the worst thing you can do is wait for the symptoms.
“DON’T wait for the signs,” she said. “Actually, don’t wait for anything. Make today the day you get tested. It is the only way you will know and knowing is freedom.”
Whether you are HIV positive or negative, Abdul-Haqq says there is always hope.
“Get that finger prick. Wait the 20 minutes. Get the results, and based on the results, decide what the next step is to live healthy -- because it is not a death sentence. It is a life changer, but not a death sentence.”