On the Lower East Side, where nearly one in three adult residents live in poverty and HIV infection rates are alarmingly high, it's critical to encourage members of the Latino community to learn their HIV status through testing. But when traditional health messages don't work, how do you reach this population?
With this question in mind, ASC recently participated in a coalition spearheaded by the Lower East Side AIDS Strategy Group to create Latino Testing Month—community education to increase access to HIV testing among diverse Latino communities throughout the Lower East Side.
Segments of the Latino community face special barriers to accessing HIV testing, explains ASC Co-Director of Prevention Services Fulvia Alvelo. "For undocumented persons, testing raises fears of being found out and deported. It also raises concern about being unable to access medical care or services of any kind."
"Throughout Latino HIV Testing Month," adds Alvelo, "we focused on these issues in ASC's weekly Spanish-language support group, Raices. We discussed the barriers to testing—including issues that affect undocumented individuals—and we encouraged the support group members to carry these messages to their familial and social networks. We also sponsored a series of 'Bring A Friend' events where the participants invited their family members and friends to come to ASC for testing. It was a very successful effort."
Other participants in the AIDS-Institute sponsored coalition included the Latino Commission on AIDS, Betances Health Center, Henry Street Settlement, Caring Hands for Positive Women, Housing Works, Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, and the Ryan-Nena Health Center. Each organization developed its own strategy to promote HIV testing among the Lower East Side's various Latino communities. All told, the coalition reached more than 400 individuals through this month-long collaborative effort.