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San Antonio AIDS Foundation adapts to continue offering free HIV/STD testing

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down some places for months at a time, including the San Antonio AIDS Foundation.

SAN ANTONIO — The pandemic has shut down some places for months at a time, including the San Antonio AIDS Foundation.

"Right when the pandemic happened, we were open for about a week or two, taking appointments only for testing," said Anna De Luna, an HIV test counselor. "Then we just had to shut everything down."

The nonprofit offers free HIV/STD testing, prevention education, treatment, and counseling. De Luna said they while working from home, they offered counseling over the phone.

"It was really difficult because we wanted to help our clients," De Luna said. "It took a while for us to get back in the game."

In June, they made their way back into the office and started testing people again through curbside service.

"And then all the regulars started coming back and they were like, 'great, thank you you're open!" De Luna said. "It felt really good. If people know their status, they can be more careful, and we can reduce the amount of HIV in our community."

Last year, SAAD tested fewer people than usual.

"I mean normally we were running about 6,000 tests a year and in 2020 it was only about 2,000 because of the pandemic and everything that happened," De Luna said.

One month into 2021 and De Luna said they've tested a few hundred people so far. They are staying busy, which is a good thing.

"It's picking up," De Luna said. "People are getting back into their routine of getting checked."

De Luna said getting tested takes a weight off your shoulders and the entire process takes about 20 minutes.

"It's very scary to get tested, it takes a lot of courage, but for most people, they're going to test negative," De Luna said. "It's peace of mind and it feels so good to know your status."

For those who do test positive, De Luna said they are there to help them every step of the way through their on-site clinic.

"You do not need a lot of money or insurance to receive HIV treatment," De Luna said. "And clients can live a long productive life even if positive."

De Luna said they plan to get their mobile testing back up and running as soon as it's safe to do so. They also offer free at-home testing kits.

To learn more about SAAF and its services, click here.

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