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Speaking about his own experience, back in 1991, when he was diagnosed with HIV, at a presentation for Orasure Technologies’ new test, Johnson said,
“When I announced 21 years ago, Elizabeth Glaser told me on her dying bed that I had to become the face of this disease.”
Johnson spoke about his promise to a woman who became an AIDS activist after contracting HIV from a blood transfusion she received during the delivery of her baby in 1981. He went on to say,
“She felt like the disease needed a face to raise awareness levels, [and] she wanted me to get out and educate people. I promised her that I’d go out and do it.”
But Johnson went on to say that he also has a commitment to African Americans, saying,
“When you think about the black and brown community, the stigma behind HIV and AIDS in our community … [not wanting] anybody to see us walk into a clinic or to the doctor’s office, this kit will help. That’s the people who I was thinking about most when I thought about this kit.”
According to Phil Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, while African Americans only make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they make up almost half of the HIV/AIDS cases of people who live with the disease and they also make up half of the yearly AIDS-related deaths.
Johnson believes keeping awareness levels high is the key, saying,
“After I announced … people were running out to actually get tested … We had a good run for about five or six years where we were talking about it openly. But fast-forward to today, people are not talking about it like they used to.”
OraQuick was approved for home use by the FDA earlier this year and is available at pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS. The test is also available for purchase online. The test shows results in 20 minutes. The FDA has warned that test results are not 100 percent accurate. According to the FDA, the test could miss 1 in 12 HIV-infected people and could incorrectly identify only one patient as having HIV for every 5,000 HIV-negative people tested.