Massachusetts: Public Survey Developed to Fight Increase in Local HIV/AIDS Diagnoses

Citing recent data showing high HIV/AIDS rates in Malden and Everett, a regional HIV/AIDS taskforce has begun administering a survey of residents to help develop an awareness campaign. HIV/AIDS diagnoses have increased among residents ages 18-34, and concurrent HIV and AIDS diagnoses are particularly worrisome. Malden and Everett rank sixth and 12th, respectively, among Massachusetts communities with the highest HIV diagnosis rates.

"How are we missing them? What kinds of activities are they engaged in? Right now, we're blind on the topic," said Christopher Webb, Malden's public health director.

Both communities have large immigrant populations that may have missed the public awareness campaigns of the 1980s, said Webb.

The 10-minute, confidential survey will gather demographic information about respondents, probe various aspects of HIV/AIDS awareness, and ask about HIV screening history. Community members can participate online or at a kiosk set up at the Malden Health Department in City Hall. The survey runs through March 19, or until 250 residents from each community have completed it.

Data will be submitted to the Institute for Community Health, and findings will be reported to the communities. Webb said he plans to use the results to support an application for a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for use in launching an informational campaign and future public surveys.

"Right now we're in the very early stages of a real program," Webb said. "We have high hopes that a lot of great things will come of it."