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AIDS/HIV awareness efforts continue

Local and national programs offered

Cynthia E. Griffin | 2/13/2015, 11 a.m.
With African Americans accounting for almost half (44 percent) of all people living wth HIV/AIDS in the United States and ...

With African Americans accounting for almost half (44 percent) of all people living wth HIV/AIDS in the United States and Black males ages 13-24 representing the highest percentages of new HIV infections (38 percent), National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, held Feb. 7, took on even more importance.

Among the activities marking this year’s recognition were the creation of a Black AIDS Crisis Task Force (ABACT) by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation; the launch of a national pilot program to address men who have sex with men, especially men of color; and the introduction of an app that will help users find free testing centers.

The task force is an initiative to create a coalition of health advocates and cultural influencers who will individually promote sexual responsibility and collectively help combat the HIV/AIDS stigma in the African American community.

ABACT members and supporters will speak directly to African American families—and young people in particular—to provide tailored, audience-appropriate messages on sexual health and encourage community-wide support for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

The national pilot initiative is a new four-year demonstration project by the United States Department of Health and Human Services launced through the Minority AIDS Initiative to address HIV disparities among men who have sex with men (MSM).

The initiative will support community-based models to strengthen HIV prevention efforts, address gaps in care for those living with HIV, and help meet the healthcare needs of MSM. More specifically, the funding will support state and local health departments in providing MSM of color, and other MSMs, with the health and social services they need to live healthy lives free of HIV infection. For those already infected, the funding will support community-based services that help the target population get diagnosed and linked to the right care—including substance abuse and mental health treatment as well as necessary social services, like stable housing. Organizers said that helping people access and remain in HIV care is good medicine and important to public health—since it lowers individuals’ risk of passing HIV to others.

Healthvana is a Yelp-like app that helps users find free HIV and sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing centers in their area.

The app, which is availabe for free download at the website https://www.healthvana.com/free-std-testing, provides users the following information: STD testing services offered at the location; hours of operation and average wait time; communities serviced–LGBT, youth or women; STD treatment services offered at the location; if services are free or if insurance is accepted; when the listing was last updated; phone number and website of clinic; as well as recommendations by other Healthvana users. The app was developed during a three-year period with Healthvana team members traveling all over the United States to visit and recommend centers.