DALLAS — Sunday was World AIDS Day, and inside the lobby at Dallas mega church The Potter's House, tables were set up, medical aides were behind the desks, and hundreds of people were lined up, waiting to get their fingers pricked.
Juanita Dauya, one of the volunteers assisting with free HIV checks, said she was impressed with the turnout. "We've tested approximately 500 people," she said.
Two of the first in line were Tynisha Drennon and Thomas Holmes.
"I'm scared because I'm scared of needles," Drennon said.
But she pressed through, knowing she's sexually active and also a resident in one of the three Dallas County zip codes where health officials warn HIV cases are rising.
Her friend Thomas Holmes took the test with her.
"If you are sexually active, you should go get tested," he said.
According to Dallas County Health and Human Services, 25 percent of new HIV diagnoses are in teenagers between the ages of 13 to 18; 49 percent of them are African Americans; and an alarming 18 percent of new diagnoses are women.
The majority of the infected, health officials say, reported living in the zip code 75216 in South Oak Cliff, 75219 in Oak Lawn, and 75243 in North Dallas near Valley View Mall.
The leadership at The Potter's House believe its time to end the silence.
"What's killing us is the secret," said Associate Pastor Bonne' Moon.
So to end the stigma, Moon — along with the church's staff — got in line and took HIV tests. Moon believes the church is the perfect place to confront the issues and become responsible.
"We can't ignore because we want to stay undercover," she said. "You know the cover is off, and we just need to be healthy, know what our status is, and do something about it — particularly not spread it!"
The Potter's House expects more than 1,000 of its 30,000 members will be tested for HIV.