Thrive Alabama shows off new HIV testing truck

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Tuesday was known as Youth HIV and Aids Awareness Day around the country. It was fitting that a group in Huntsville unveiled a new truck they'll use to serve more people living with STD's. A great big bus and a festive party.

Thrive Alabama is well known for serving people living with HIV and other illnesses.

"We cover Mississippi to Georgia and Tennessee down to Birmingham," Thrive Alabama CEO Mary Elizabeth Marr said.

Despite having a budget of around $7 million, Marr says they still weren't reaching everybody.

"We currently do about 2,500 tests a year. And we're really hoping we can double that," Marr said.

"One out of every four people tested for HIV don't even come back for their results," Thrive Community Liason Eldred Thomas said.

They hope to expand their service network by taking their clinic on the road.

The truck costs about $400,000. Thrive organizers say they raised the money they needed to pay for it in about two years. The money came from corporate sponsors, partnerships, donations and successful fundraisers.

"It has an exam room, a lab. We can basically do primary care or STD care out of the vehicle," Marr said.

"To live in this day and age and get tested for HIV is not nearly as traumatic as it was in the late 80s, early 90s," Thomas said.

Organizers say the goal is early education for people and helping those living with a disease to live long, happy lives.

In 1996, a person who was infected with HIV at 20 years old was told he or she wouldn't live to see 40. Today, thanks to what's known as antiretroviral medicines, people who have HIV can live into their 70s.