WGBH: Boston Kicks Free HIV Testing Into High Gear

WGBH’s Ibby Caputo reports

Results in less than 20 minutes – no needles, no blood, no waiting. The NFL's two-time Superbowl champ DeShea Townsend shows you how it's done.

HIV test results in 20 minutes – no needles, no blood, no waiting. Two-time Superbowl champ DeShea Townsend shows you how it’s done.

This week on Boston streets, you may be asked a question that’s usually reserved for a doctor’s office. It’s part of a public health initiative to test people for HIV.

Community development worker Lindsee Redmond stands in front of the “Family Van” parked at the Jackson Square MBTA station. Her job is to get people to go inside the van, where trained counselors are testing people for HIV.

Redmond appealed to people who walk by with the promise of a CVS gift card in exchange for a rapid HIV test. She and dozens of other volunteers are taking part in Take the Test Boston, an HIV awareness and screening campaign.

It’s estimated that 28,000 people have HIV in Massachusetts, but 18 percent of them don’t know they are infected, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

“When people know their status they do take precautions to keep themselves healthy and not transmit the virus to another person,” according to the Action for Boston Community Development health services director Irvienne Goldson.

More than half of the people living with HIV in Massachusetts are blacks and Latinos, so this week’s HIV testing is focused in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Jamaica Plain.

“We know that part of what drives HIV transmission or infection within communities are people who don’t know their status, right, and that’s really consistent not just in black communities or Latin communities but across the country and across the world,” Goldson said.

During last year’s campaign, 357 people were tested. This year, the hope is that number will reach 500.

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