DALLAS — The alarming rate of new HIV cases in Dallas County has some health care workers and community members concerned. The majority of new diagnoses are showing up in the African American community, according to Dallas County Health & Human Services.
Health officials have been going to a new source to try to get the word out about HIV and AIDS prevention, education and treatment. They are partnering with local barbershops and beauty salons.
The barbershop is a neighborhood spot where getting a fresh haircut and the latest buzz is the norm. Between the daily dish, these days, some stylists in Dallas' African American communities are serving up a dose of education, part of a new initiative called "Fade Out HIV."
"It's something that really needs to be put out there," said Michelle Caraway, a barber at Kingz of Cutz in South Dallas. "It's killing people. It's taking people's lives on the daily," Caraway added.
Kingz of Cutz is not typically a place you would hear conversations about HIV out loud, until now.
"Most of these people don't like going to the clinic," barber Gerard Claiborne said about some of his shop's clients and neighbors. "They don't like going to the clinic to get tested. Most of these HIV tests costs a lot of money."
The barbershop is among a group of local salons now pushing the message to clients about HIV prevention and treatment. It is all because of the alarming rate of new diagnosis in the Black community.
"I think it's important because a lot of people are not aware of the seriousness in it," said Ms. Tee, co-owner of King B Barbershop and Beauty in South Oak Cliff.
According to Dallas County Health and Human Services, there were 768 new HIV cases reported in 2013. Of those, 51 percent were diagnosed in the Black community. Many of the patients were between the ages of 25 and 35. A large number of them were male.
"Those numbers are scary," Claiborne said.
The numbers of new HIV diagnoses are so scary, barbers ad stylists now have health counselors making regular visits to their shops as part of the "Fade Out HIV" program.They are offering free HIV testing in the salons and they are making condoms and other safe sex items and education material available to clients.
The topic, many barbers admit, isn't always easy to speak about publicly.
"Don't get it wrong. You'd be talking about everything else, but once you get to talking about HIV or AIDS, it'll be like a complete silence in the shop," said Omar Jones, with King B Barber and Beauty. "So you kind of have to get people to talking about it."
Even with the uncomfortable conversation, some stylists participating in "Fade Out HIV" say part of their service is now about saving lives.