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Take the Test, Take Control: World AIDS Day 2007
Date:11/29/2007

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The patient he was treating in the Yale University-affiliated community health clinic was so much like him that Dr. Garth Graham thought he could almost be looking in a mirror. The man was African American, about his age, and lived near Graham's own home in New Haven, Conn.

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20070531/DCTHFNS1 )

But in contrast to Graham's good health, the man was coughing, feverish, and losing weight for no apparent reason. When Graham suggested that he take an HIV test, the patient got up and walked out of the treatment room without saying a word.

It would be nearly a year before Graham saw his patient again. By the time he did, in the year 2000, the man had been diagnosed with full-blown AIDS.

"We had so many similar characteristics," said Graham, who has directed the Office of Minority Health (OMH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since 2003 "He had two children, a family, and friends--and he died a difficult death. I couldn't help wondering what might have happened if he had taken that HIV test? By then, we already had medications that would have helped him, but his refusal to be tested meant he did not get the treatment he needed. His case reminded me that we are most vulnerable to HIV when we refuse to admit we might be at risk."

As a practicing physician and the director of OMH, Graham sees that vulnerability every day in his work to improve health outcomes for minority communities in the United States.

In the 26th year of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, African Americans and Latinos are increasingly at risk for HIV infection. Although both groups together make up less than 30 percent of the U.S. population, they make up nearly 70 percent of all new HIV/AIDS cases.

These numbers spur Graham and his staff to emphasize HIV testing a
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SOURCE U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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