H-I-V is running rampant among some North Texas communities. Dallas County leads the state in infections... and 40% come from African American women between the ages of 13 and 24. FOX 4's Calvert Collins shows us how a local hair salon is addressing the problem.
It's not something you normally talk about in the barber chair... but a local salon owner says you need to. South Oak Cliff has the most number of HIV cases in the county... so that's why stylists at Flewellen's Salon took the conversation a step further and offered free HIV tests between the cut and color.
Felicia Flye-Lewis tears open an HIV swab kit.
"Take it between your gums, flip it all around," Flye-Lewis of the Urban League of Greater Dallas said.
Not exactly an everyday situation at a hair salon, but at Flewellen's in South Oak Cliff... customers got a style and a swab. Salon owner Kaye Flewellen talks to her regular clients about sex.
"Usually they're saying 'hey, I'm going out on a date tonight' or 'I just met a new gentleman', and all we wanna do is say, 'hey if you're going on a date, be careful, practice safe sex.'"
Flewellen is one of two stylists in the country working with the Centers for Disease Control on a national initiative to encourage stylists to preach using condoms... practicing abstinence and other methods of preventing HIV.
"I think it could be a little uncomfortable talking about it with your stylist, but then I guess you can understand where she's coming from and it puts it in the back of your mind, maybe I should get tested," Flewellen customer Angel Haskins said.
68% of women living with HIV in Dallas County are African American compared to 17-percent who are White and 13-percent who are Hispanic.
Haskins says, "it's frightening."
A main reason for the increase... African American men coming out of prison with HIV and having sex with their women... according to the Dallas County Health Department.
"It destroys a lot of people's lives and you wanna be prepared and as well as teaching your kids," Donald Haskins said.
He joined his wife in getting a free HIV test at the salon today, in part for his own health, and to show his young sons why it's important to take care of their bodies.
Flewellen says, "In the African American community, people still see it as a gay man's disease, and unfortunately it's affecting African American females, heterosexual females at an alarming rate. If we can just start the conversation and keep it from being so taboo, what other place to do that than in a salon since we have all other conversations anyway."
In case you missed today's free testing at Flewellen's Salon, the Urban League of Greater Dallas and the Dallas County Health Department offer free HIV tests Monday through Friday.
KDFW FOX 4
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