By Imani Williams
DETROIT – National HIV Testing Day celebrated its 10th Anniversary June 27. In conjunction with the anniversary, Gloria Ateman, HIV Prevention Supervisor with the Visiting Nurse’s Association of South Eastern Michigan (VNA), and her outreach staff put in extra efforts to reach usually unreachable populations for testing in metro Detroit.
VNA set up satellite testing sites in Detroit and Inkster on June 24-25, providing free HIV tests with return results in 20 minutes.
Part of VNA’s work is an effort to reach different populations. Every year a different group is targeted. Past groups have included the homeless, and men who have sex with men (MSM). This year, VNA is targeting strip club patrons and participants. According to Ateman the reception at strip clubs has been mixed. “Some people don’t recognize their risks, and believe that if they look and feel okay that they can’t be infected.” Ateman shared. “Some people realize their risks and go into denial about their activity, possibly leading to infection.”
Of greater concern to Ateman is the fact that one third of those infected don’t even know it. Ateman also reports that in the past six months VNA of SE Michigan has had more ‘positives’ than in the entire year of 2003.
The numbers for seniors infected with HIV are also increasing, and as the numbers in this demographic rise it is important that they receive information about risks and testing. Ateman recently received a call from an 86-year-old woman who was frantic to receive an HIV test. This was Ateman’s oldest client in her 12 years in the field.
Ateman shared that, “The woman had seen an article in the paper highlighting National Test Day and had some concerns because of her husband’s past activity.” VNA went to her home and tested her.
As part of a pilot program with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), VNA is one of six state agencies using Rapid testing.
If a person tests and receives a ‘reactive’ result from the Rapid, that test is then followed up with a second test a few days later to confirm the results. If results are reactive after the second test, the individual is set up with a case manager, an infectious disease doctor and counseling. They are about AIDS-related laws and that they have to inform any current or future sexual partners of their status.
Ateman concludes with a message to readers to, “Be responsible, and get tested.” She adds, “In the back of our minds we all know what we’ve done to put ourselves at risk.”
Founded in 1898, the VNA of SE Michigan is the state’s largest independent nonprofit home heath care and hospice agency. In 1983, VNA became the first home care agency to provide home care services to patients with HIV/AIDS in the Detroit Area.
VNA offers educational workshops and testing to organizations and agencies. You can obtain more information by calling 800-882-5720 or visiting www.vna.org.