RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Friday all across the nation people were urged to get tested for HIV and AIDS. In the Valley, where the virus continues to show up, Get Tested Coachella Valley offered free confidential screenings. The local organization says a simple test can stop this terrible disease in the Coachella Valley.
"Being there at the beginning, a lot of people today don't realize what happened and what it was to burry 36 of your dearest closest friends," said Rancho Mirage council member Charles Townsend.
The fight against HIV and AIDS has come along way but the fight is far from over.
"There is a new infection every 9 and a half minutes, the number one reason our infection rate is so high is not all Americans know their HIV status," said Desert AIDS Project CEO David Brinkman.
It's especially important for people to get tested in the Coachella Valley, it has twice the national rate of people with HIV or AIDS, yet half the people here have never been tested.
"There hasn't been any kind of consistent routine testing for HIV and as a result the virus can spread," said Get Test Coachella Valley project director Susan Unger.
Get Test Coachella Valley's goal is to change that. The mobile campaign launched in January, already thousands of Valley residents have been tested and counseled.
"Years ago when someone had a positive, it was almost like a death sentence, now you can say yes you are HIV positive, but here is treatment, here is medication," said Desert Regional Medical Center CEO Carolyn Caldwell.
"Once someone is on the appropriate medications, they become 96% less infectious. That's big news because if everyone in the Cachella Valley were to get tested and anyone who is positive gets on the medication, we could bring an end to the HIV epidemic even without a cure for HIV," said Unger.
The test is easier and quicker than ever before, just a swab of your mouth then 20 minutes later you have your results.
"It just makes sense for everyone to know their HIV status," said Unger.
A status that can change that's why the goal is to make HIV testing as routine as testing for cholesterol.
"Any time we can just standardize testing, we take away the stigma, we take away the judgement. It is a virus, just like a cold is a virus, anybody can contract a virus," said Brinkman.
"We have the medicines, we have the tests, all we need now is the community will," said Unger.