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”It’s grown tremendously because of the fact that we have a mobile unit that goes out into the community,” says Kerr, giving credit to a grant from the city’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA). ”In the last two years, we’ve tested over 1,600 per year. The whole program is just over four years old. In the last two years we’ve really been able to ramp up very large numbers.”
The START at Westminster work gets quite a bit more creative than administering HIV tests. Kerr seems particularly excited, for example, by work he’s doing with the D.C. office of the Atlanta-based Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary. As a co-moderator of the Presbyterian AIDS Network, helping to prepare a three-day workshop at the seminary to prepare new pastors to be fully competent with regard to HIV is crucial, says Kerr.
”We need churches to start talking about sex,” he insists. ”The people in those pews, they’re having sex. We shouldn’t be shying away from the conversation. The pastor is key to it, getting our younger pastors to really acknowledge that this is something that they need to be in the forefront about.”
That’s not till the end of November, though. First up is AIDS Walk and the Courage Award, an honor for which Kerr is very grateful.
”This ranks up there pretty high, because it came from the community,” he says. ”It’s really honoring me for the 19-plus years I’ve been working in the field. It’s big to me.”
The Courage Award is not, however, the real reward. That comes from the people he helps every day.
”What keeps me doing the work is the clients themselves,” says Kerr. ”When they get service from us, that’s the blessing. I hear some really tough stories about people really struggling. They’re the No. 1 priority. They’re the reason we’re doing this work.”
AIDS Walk Washington is Saturday, Oct. 27. The event begins at 7 a.m. at Freedom Plaza at Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Street NW. The run begins at 8:30 a.m., with the walk stepping off at 9:15. Post-walk celebration begins at 10 a.m. Registration rates range from $15 to $40. To register or for more information, call 202-332-WALK or visit aidswalkwashington.org.