Southwest Philadelphia, whose residents are dying of AIDS at nearly twice the citywide average, is the site for an on-the-street prevention and testing outreach campaign aimed at stopping the spread of HIV. Sixty trained volunteers are knocking on doors and stopping passers-by, urging them to get tested for free at a mobile van or local health center. The goal of the two-year effort is to test 12,000 locals.
"Basically, what I want to do is change the culture around testing so that everyone gets tested," said Amy Nunn, a Brown University medical school researcher, who is leading the project.
Philadelphia is "a deeply, deeply religious city" with some neighborhoods that have high HIV rates and limited access to treatment and prevention services, said Nunn. Her message for the outreach is "regardless of what you do or your sexual orientation, you are at higher risk simply because of where you live. Because there is more virus in your community."
For several years, CDC has targeted testing to high-risk groups, but as defined by race or behavior, not locale. The thinking for Nunn's work is to encircle a neighborhood with a "net" to raise awareness and normalize testing there, said Susan Little, a professor of medicine at University of California-San Diego, who has run a similar effort in two ZIP codes there.
To spread the word in Southwest Philadelphia, the outreach is supported by billboards, church sermons, a website, and social media calling on residents to "Do One Thing, Change Everything." The mobile van moves block by block, offering testing on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Back to other news for August 2012
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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