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Kasim Reed walked into City Hall’s familiar Conference Room 2 Wednesday afternoon to jump a new hurdle.

The Atlanta mayor usually comes into the room to meet with a sometimes-testy city council. But this time he was met by a man trained in administering rapid HIV tests.

“This is a disease that impacts all of the city,” Reed had said at a press conference earlier to urge widespread testing. “That is why I am going to participate and be tested as well.”

After a battery of medical questions, the technician handed the mayor an oral swab and instructed him on how to conduct the test – basically gathering saliva.

“Oh,” Reed said. “It is like brushing my teeth.”

And with that, it was over.

Twenty minutes later, the mayor would learn his status. So would dozens of others.

As part of events leading up to National HIV Testing Day on Sunday, Reed opened City Hall on Wednesday for anyone interested in getting tested. Atlanta has one of the highest HIV rates in the country and Reed’s test served as a huge symbolic gesture to help reduce the stigma of testing.

“It is the first step in creating awareness,” said Councilman Alex Wan, the development director for Jerusalem House, which provides housing and support services for people affected by HIV. “We need to do something to jump- start awareness. It is a selfish decision not to get tested.”

To find out other locations were HIV tests are conducted, call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

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