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International Health Leaders Join Forces to Boost Routine HIV Screening and Improve Care in Public Health Settings

Event Brings Together Health Officials and Advocates from U.S. and South Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa and OAKLAND, Calif., July 23, 2009 – International health leaders, medical professionals, researchers and public health advocates from the United States and South Africa will gather in Cape Town today for "Towards Global Routinization of HIV Testing," a day-long event designed to explore ways to implement routine HIV screening and linkage to care in public health and community settings. The event is hosted by ACTS South Africa and ACTS U.S. with support from the City of Oakland, Office of the Mayor and the Flowers Heritage Foundation.

The meeting follows the International AIDS Society's Conference on Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, which concluded yesterday in Cape Town. With the Western Cape Province and Cape Town Departments of Health planning to implement the first province-wide scale-up of routine HIV testing in South Africa, "Towards Global Routinization of HIV" will feature an interactive exchange of lessons learned and challenges thus far. Participants include: Brenda Smuts, the Director of HIV/AIDS from the Western Cape Province; Juanita Arendse of the Western Cape Province; Dr. Karen Jennings and Dr. Virginia de Azevedo of the City of Cape Town; Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker from the Desmond Tutu Foundation; and Dr. Desiree Michaels, the Director of ACTS South Africa.

In addition, U.S. stakeholders will share their experiences implementing city-wide routine HIV testing services in Washington, D.C., Oakland, Los Angeles, Miami and the Bronx. Speakers include: Dr. Jonathan Mermin, Director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at Centers for Disease Control; Dr. Marsha Martin, Director of Get Screened Oakland; Evelyn Ullah, the Director of HIV/AIDS for Miami-Dade County Health Department; and Dr. Donna Futterman, Director of ACTS.

"Identifying those with HIV infection and linking them to care is our next winnable victory in HIV/AIDS. With no vaccine or microbicide on the horizon, we have the means to offer HIV testing routinely to our clients in clinics, hospitals and the community so that those who are living with HIV can learn their status, access treatment and be part of an effort that can significantly curb the growth of this epidemic," said Dr. Futterman.

"It is our hope that this meeting will be the first of many such forums to foster collaboration and encourage the sharing of experiences and strategies from around the world to identify individuals living with HIV and engage them in care," noted Gregory Edwards, executive director of the Flowers Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying gaps in healthcare services and systems and treating health disparities with effective public health solutions.

About ACTS
The ACTS model – advise, consent, test and support – is focused on eliminating missed opportunities to diagnose HIV positive clients by increasing routine testing. The key features of ACTS are operational guidance to incorporate HIV counseling and testing into routine care delivered by doctors and nurses as well as a tool for the streamlining pretest counseling into less than a minute. ACTS is now used in multiple cities in the U.S., in the Western Cape Province of South Africa and in Botswana. ACTS South Africa is funded by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. For more information, please visit www.actshivtest.org.

About Flowers Heritage Foundation
The Flowers Heritage Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing solutions for public health issues affecting the medically indigent through our expertise in public health care, education/awareness programs, technology, business management, and fundraising. The Flowers Heritage Foundation was established by the Flowers family and is an outgrowth of their belief in giving back to the communities they serve. The Flowers Heritage Foundation is based in Oakland, California. For more information, please visit www.flowersheritagefoundation.com.