Free, confidential HIV screenings offered in LaPlace

Published 12:14 am Wednesday, June 20, 2018

LAPLACE — Nearly 15 percent of people living with HIV have not yet been diagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In honor of National HIV Testing Day, Walgreens in LaPlace is partnering with representatives from local nonprofit The Right Choice Project to ensure St. John the Baptist Parish residents know their status and have access to needed resources.

Cost-free, 20-minute HIV tests are being offered from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 27 at 1815 W. Airline Highway.

Glen Pietrandoni, senior director of patient care and advocacy, said Walgreens has supported people living with HIV/AIDS for more than 30 years.

“Early testing can mean access to effective treatment and the opportunity to go on to live a healthy normal lifespan,” Pietrandoni said. “In addition, with proper adherence to medication, successfully treated patients cannot easily transmit the virus to others. As we continue to work towards an end to HIV/AIDS, it is crucial that testing and trusted resources on treatment are made more widely available within communities.”

According to Daris Walker, clinical coordinator for The Right Choice Project, two representatives will be on hand at any given time to provide community education and testing.

No identification is required, and Walker said individuals choose between an anonymous or confidential test.

In an anonymous test, the individual being tested relays no personal information. Those who opt for a confidential test provide an email or phone number for easier access to state resources.

“We give them a referral system and stay in contact with them so we can make sure they receive the right care,” Walker said.

A counselor will guide individuals who ask for a test to a private room or a discreet location toward the back of the store. HIV tests are typically administered through a finger prick blood test or an oral swab. After a waiting period of 20 minutes, the community partner conducting the test shares the results, discusses the outcome and provides guidance on the next steps to take.

The Right Choice Project representatives will also relay information about PrEp, a HIV prevention pill for individuals who test negative but show an increased risk of contracting the virus.

Those who test positive also have options to begin a one-pill-a-day treatment plan, Walker said.

Launched in December 2013, The Right Choice Project also provides no-cost weekly testing, counseling and contraceptive barriers to St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles parishes. The organization focuses services on youth ages 13 to 21, though HIV testing is open to all from 2 to 5 p.m. every Thursday at 516 E. Airline Highway in LaPlace.

Call 985-248-9328 or visit for more information.

LaPlace Walgreens Store Manager Pamela Bates said the location is all about making sure customers are healthy.

“We can only help treat them if they know something is wrong,” Bates said.