Right Now at IWES: HIV Testing & Prevention Program

On June 27, 2018, our HIV Testing and Prevention (HTP) Program wrapped up an amazing third year by testing 60 people for National HIV Testing Day, bringing our annual total to 681 people tested for this funding year and putting us over the mark for 1500 people tested since the program started in the Summer of 2015. This year saw our biggest testing numbers yet, plus further growth of our other program components such as ARTAS, which offers individuals living with HIV one-on-one assistance for linking to treatment services, and PROMISE, a community-level intervention in which peer advocates are selected and tasked with encouraging testing, distributing safer sex materials and role model stories in their communities.  

Our role model stories are true testimonials of individuals in our very own community who have made positive behavior changes to reduce their risks of acquiring or transmitting HIV, including getting tested, using condoms, or adhering to treatment. This year we published six role model stories for distribution through outreach, peer advocates, social media, and the IWES website.  Because we received such amazing feedback on these stories, HTP has already started working on new role model stories to be published throughout this new program year!

HTP also saw an expansion of our partnerships for HIV testing and ARTAS services. This year we  started offering these services at the Orleans Parish Justice Center, the St. Bernard Parish Jail, SisterHeart Thrift Store, the Walgreens Pharmacy on Crowder, NOLA Village/El Pueblo NOLA, and New Orleans Job Corps.  We have also continued our partnerships with the Harry Thompson Day Center, Liberty’s Kitchen, the Walgreens Pharmacies on Gentilly and Elysian Fields, Dillard and Xavier Universities, STRIVE Future Leaders, and Ceasefire, as well as offering HIV testing and condom distribution at various special events around the Greater New Orleans area.  

In addition to amazing partnerships that have helped shape the work that we do, this year we saw a new, re-energized Community Advisory Board that included social media influencers, local artists, community activists, and other individuals who represent populations most impacted by HIV in our community. Our Community Advisory Board provided great insight into the communities they represent and helped to keep our team grounded as they supported HTP in figuring out ways to most effectively reach underserved populations with cultural humility, sensitivity, and dignity.

Lastly, HTP has spent much of the last year working on a campaign to help us continue to educate our community about PrEP. PrEP is a once a day pill, that when used with other risk reduction methods such as condoms, reduces the risk of acquiring HIV by more than 90%. Our team has added PrEP education into all of our outreach efforts, while also doing extensive research, including conducting surveys around the Greater New Orleans area, to better understand attitudes and knowledge about PrEP. This program year, our team will be collaborating with IWES’ Research & Evaluation Team and Media & Communications Team for the creation and distribution of a new campaign using the data that we’ve gathered.

HTP is already strategizing on new, innovative ways to challenge HIV stigma, to offer more education, and to minimize barriers to HIV testing, treatment services, and safer sex resources. Thank you to everyone who supported us through such an amazing year!