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Get tested in Springfield on June 25

SPRINGFIELD It's quick, it's free and it helps you take charge of your life. On June 25, the Gandara Center will host HIV testing at its 2155 Main St. clinic from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., observing National HIV Testing Day. Tapestry Health will provide a van to conduct the tests, which give results within 20 minutes. An estimated 250,000 people in the United States have HIV and are not aware of it, said Denise Quinones, Director of the Gandara Center's Project Health. The Gandara Center, a human service agency based in West Springfield, serves the needs of the Hispanic, African-American and other special populations of the Springfield area. "National HIV Testing Day is an opportunity for people to learn their HIV status and to gain knowledge to take control of their health and their lives," she said. Minorities in the Springfield area, Gandara's target audience, remain particularly affected by HIV and AIDS at higher rates than the general population. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, black and Hispanic people are about 10 times more likely to be HIV-positive than white individuals. This disproportion is even greater among women of color, who amount to 83 percent of the women diagnosed with HIV. According to the state, as of July 2008 there were 630 Hispanics living with HIV/AIDS in Springfield (57 percent of the city's HIV/AIDS cases), and 296 blacks with HIV/AIDS (27 percent). Of Springfield's 1,105 cases of HIV/AIDS, 36 percent contracted the illness through intravenous drug use, while 18 percent contracted through heterosexual contact. Slightly less than that contracted through male homosexual contact. For more information, contact the Gandara Center at 736-8329.

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