When it comes to our approach to ending HIV through prevention of new positives, and case management for people with HIV, the numbers tell one story: in March and April, we tested 317 people for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and/or hepatitis C. Of these, we identified six new cases of gonorrhea, 29 new cases of chlamydia, one syphilis, two new HIV cases, and one new hepatitis C infection. During the same time period, we reached 190 people through health education presentations in twelve different venues.
But that’s only part of the story. The real story is the connections we make with our community. In addition to our regular Monday and Wednesday clinics, we have done testing events at Guilford College, Greensboro College, Greensboro Public Library, the YWCA, and held our first annual National Transgender HIV Testing Day event here at the office, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s CARS (Community Approaches to Reducing STIs) partnership with Wake Forest University (known in the Triad region as Impact Triad). The latter event was a real breakthrough for us on the level of community engagement; not only did we test 22 people, but we reached several hundred more through streaming portions of the event on Facebook Live, led by Impact Triad members from the affected communities. Participants we also polled by an Impact Triad volunteer about how to best direct our outreach efforts amongst Black and Latino LGBTQIA communities.
Meanwhile, in High Point, Case Manager and Health Education team member Alisha continues to offer testing for people by referral in addition to her case management duties, which enriches not only the High Point office, but the High Point community as well, ahead of an upcoming multi-agency effort to increase HIV outreach testing in High Point. In a nutshell, we are bringing an increasing focus on the most-affected communities as our means of reaching people with undiagnosed HIV infection, and bringing them into care, where our stellar case management staff can help them reach viral suppression.
We’ve also been doing many and making community connections: in April, we presented to students at UNCG and Elon University and the GTCC High Point campus, at the YWCA, to the Stonewall Kickball group, to a group called One Step Further for parents of LGBTQIA teens, at a resource fair at Hampton Homes, at Mary’s House, as well as the ongoing monthly meetings of the CARS/Impact Triad community advisory board, and participating in the multi-agency PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) Working Group. We have seen a big increase in the number of people interested in volunteering at THP from doing these presentations, and are working on expanding our community presence by organizing these volunteers.
We’re looking forward to a big summer with kickball events organized by both the Stonewall group and the Impact Triad group, a possible Pride day party with Impact Triad, and National HIV Testing Day in June! We hope that by increasing our reach into the communities most affected by HIV with testing and prevention education, by identifying new positives and linking them to care, and helping people who are negative to stay negative, that we will see rates in Guilford County continue to drop, standing together, as we say in our mission statement, until HIV/AIDS is no more. We have the tools we need, and we’re closer than ever to making the end of HIV a reality.
by Scott Trent, THP Lead Health Educator