This past Saturday, June 27, was National HIV Testing Day — a day whose urgency was emphasized by the Thursday release of a new CDC report finding that “nearly half the HIV-positive U.S. adolescents and young adults are unaware of their infection.”
The report’s recommendation?
To decrease the number of undiagnosed HIV infections among adolescents and promote HIV prevention, CDC recommends that health-care providers offer HIV screening as part of routine medical care.
Promisingly, the study seems to indicate that AIDS/HIV educational outreach works when it comes to convincing young people to get tested:
HIV testing was more common among students who had ever been taught in school about AIDS or HIV infection than among those who had not, the study found. The researchers urged more schools to include information about testing in their curriculum. (Reuters)
Schweitzer Fellows across the country are working to get information about HIV testing to populations most in need of it. One such Fellow? Michael Dyer, a student at Harvard Medical School who as a 2008-09 Schweitzer Fellow collaborated with Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY) to offer health education and risk reduction services to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) youth in the greater Boston area.
One of Dyer’s responsibilities was to provide HIV testing and counseling at BAGLY’s weekly meetings (which attract 50-70 youth ages 13-22) and events(BAGLY puts on 3 large ones each year, including a queer prom at Boston City Hall with over 1,700 youth).
“BAGLY has a program called Health Education and Risk Reduction Team (HEARRT) that provides free and anonymous HIV testing at meetings,” Dyer said. “Additionally, HEARRT holds monthly workshops at BAGLY meetings on topics such as safer sex.”
“As a Schweitzer Fellow, I helped HEARRT expand its HIV counseling and testing services,” Dyer said. ” Counseling and testing used to be offered every other week, but is now offered at each meeting. I serve as the tester and counselor at every other meeting. We have also started offering counseling and testing at our larger events — at the Halloween dance, where over 1,000 youth were in attendance, we conducted over twenty counseling and testing sessions with youth, most of whom do not normally attend our weekly meetings and therefore don’t have access to our testing services at these meetings.”
“The interactions that I had with youth through HIV counseling and testing are among the most valuable, meaningful experiences I’ve had as a Schweitzer Fellow,” Dyer said.