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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Entertainment and education are two big parts of nonprofit clinic Thrive Alabama’s inaugural Stomp Out HIV Health Fair in Big Spring Park. The organization was joined by other health and wellness service partners and even offered on-site HIV testing in their Thrive Mobile.

“We want to do this to bring attention to HIV and the fact that there’s still a lot of stigma around it, and we have an opportunity as a community to come together and have productive dialogue as well as provide access to testing services,” Thrive Alabama Health Education Director Erin Bortel said.

Thrive Alabama leaders said one in about every seven Americans are HIV positive and don’t know it, meaning they could be part of the problem in spreading the virus and putting others’ lives at risk.

The event even accompanies national HIV testing day on June 27th. Leaders with the Alabama Department of Public Health said it’s an opportunity and people need to take advantage of that.

“It’s a growing problem, but we’re trying to combat it with events like this, trying to get the word out, making sure everyone knows their status, that they’re tested,” ADPH HIV Prevention Branch Director Jora White said.

In addition to offering HIV testing, Thrive Alabama has partnered with the National LGBTQ+ rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, to offer COVID-19 vaccines, as part of a national effort to get 70% of adults partially vaccinated by July 4.

The Human Rights Campaign stated in a press release many in the LGBTQ+ community are more hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine and Thrive Alabama has an idea why.

“There’s a perception and actual experience that especially LGBTQ people are stigmatized as they try to access healthcare, and especially in today’s political climate so that’s one thing we’re trying to combat with this initiative,” Bortel said.

June is also Pride Month, and Bortel says the purpose of events like this one is to give every member of the North Alabama community who wants access to healthcare opportunities in a safe and inclusive environment.