Jacobi Medical Center and the Department of Health team up to have Bronx residents beat the odds against the HIV epidemic in the borough.
On Wednesday, October 29, Jacobi hosted the ‘Knowledge is Power’ Rapid HIV Testing Event, which provided rapid oral HIV testing to over 100 Bronxites.
The testing provided at the event was a result of Jacobi’s Project B.R.I.E.F., which began in 2003 by Dr. Jason Leider, medical director of Adult HIV Services at Jacobi and North Central Bronx Hospital, and Dr. Yvette Calderon, director of Urgent Care at Jacobi.
The program is designed to increase the number of patients able to be tested and receive counseling and treatment through a computer based questionnaire program, with pre-testing and post-testing videos.
“Project B.R.I.E.F. is a computer program that asks private questions, assuring complete confidentiality and security, then it shows you videos informing people on the topic,” said Calderon. “Following that our health care advocates come in and ask if you would like to be tested, using an oral mouth swab.”
If positive, a blood test will follow to confirm, and then the patient will be immediately linked to a source for treatment, counseling and any other necessary services.
The Knowledge is Power event falls within the DOH’s ‘Bronx Knows’ health initiative, the largest HIV testing initiative in New York City history.
These programs and initiatives all share the same goal, to have as many Bronx residents tested and aware of their status.
“When a community tells you what their need is and tell you to get involved, the response is great,” said Dr. Monica Sweeney, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control at DOH. “We aim for 18 to 64 year-olds, but we want everyone who does not know their status to be tested, because HIV does not ask your age.”
According to the DOH, of residents tested in 2006, more than ¼ were already infected with AIDS when they learned they were HIV positive. Meaning those diagnosed had been HIV positive for a given amount of time unaware, and therefore not seeking proper treatment.
“People need to start to think of HIV as a medical condition and not a stigma or shame,” said Sweeney. “We need to address HIV as such and have people take regular testing, especially in New York City, where there is treatment available for every single person who is HIV positive.”
Though the Bronx stands with the highest testing rate amongst the boroughs at 69%, according to DOH in 2006, 829 people were diagnosed with HIV, and 214 people first learned they had HIV with AIDS.
“I look forward to the day when we can finally say, ‘remember those days when HIV was a problem’,” said Borough President Adolfo Carrion, who is also partnering in the ‘Knowledge is Power’ campaign.