On Tues., June 27, National HIV Testing Day, a community HIV testing initiative, was launched out of the Great Hall in Codman Square.
With the support of City Councillor Andrea Campbell and the Boston Public Health Commission, Codman Square Health Center began a neighborhood-wide testing initiative — Dorchester Knows— that will run throughout the summer into the fall to combat the stigma and lack of awareness of HIV.
A collaboration of religious, community, business, and public health organizations all led by Codman Square Health Center, Dorchester Knows aims to help all Dorchester residents’ ages 15-65 learn their HIV status. Dorchester Knows aims to provide a voluntary HIV test to every person in the 02124 zip code, make HIV testing a routine part of health care in Boston, help identify undiagnosed HIV-positive people in Boston, and link them to medical care, and, lastly, connect at-risk people who test negative for HIV to prevention services, including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis PrEP.
All testing is free for participants. Those getting tested will not be asked for payment, insurance, billing information, or immigration status. Counselors and testers will perform a brief behavioral risk assessment while the test is being run. Health education and recommendations will be made to patients for primary care, PrEP and/or STI screening. People who test positive will be linked to local HIV services for care.
Testing sites will happen throughout the Dorchester neighborhood, with a schedule forthcoming soon.
This issue is particularly relevant in Dorchester as Boston has a disproportional rate of HIV infections in communities of color. Black (non-Hispanic) and Latino residents account for 24 percent and 18 percent of the Boston population respectively, but accounted for 40 percent and 19 percent of people Living with AIDS/HIV in 2013. By launching this initiative it is our hope to find those individuals who are undiagnosed with HIV, link them into medical care, and provide patient center medical care to ultimately lower the community viral load.
The HIV Testing Initiative is modeled after the successful Bronx Knows initiative. The Bronx Knows community partners conducted 607,570 HIV tests, identified 4,544 people newly diagnosed with HIV.
At the event, City Councillor Andrea Campbell chose to be publically tested to demonstrate there is no shame in getting an HIV test. Also at the Kick Off event Codman Square Health Center recognized Jonathan Pincus, MD, for his decades of work providing HIV care in Codman Square and his leadership both at Codman through his role as Medical Director of Internal Medicine and HIV Services, as well as his work starting the nonprofit the Rasin Foundation in Haiti.