PROVIDENCE – In concert with area World AIDS Day observances, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) unveiled three new strategies today in support of statewide efforts to end the epidemic of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Rhode Island by 2018.
"HEALTH's 'Getting to Zero' goal is to eliminate new HIV infections and AIDS in Rhode Island within five years," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH, noting that there were 78 new HIV cases reported in Rhode Island in 2012, down from 97 in 2011. "This goal is an important part of our efforts to make Rhode Island the healthiest state in the nation, and we could not do this without our state and community partners, our healthcare providers, and our state's advocates for HIV prevention, testing, and care."
"Getting to Zero" has served as an overarching campaign theme for HEALTH's Office of HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis and other community partners to coordinate efforts and resources to launch three new initiatives this week focused on reducing HIV transmission. To "Get to Zero" all Rhode Islanders ages 13-64 will need to be routinely tested for HIV, especially those who have risky sex or multiple partners.
The three Rhode Island initiatives launching this week support and promote routine testing, prevention, and care to help prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs:
- On Tuesday, Dec. 3, the state's first-ever "Getting to Zero Summit on Prevention, Testing and Care" will bring together community partners, healthcare professionals, case workers, state agencies, HIV advocates, and others to share best practices and the latest clinical guidelines for ending the transmission of HIV. The summit will include sessions on sexual health with a perspective for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the impact of the Affordable Care Act, a plenary on disrupting transmission involving sexual networks, and more.
- A multi-media campaign based on market research in Rhode Island will promote prevention through condom use and will urge routine testing for HIV and other STDs. The first ads will appear this week to coincide with World AIDS Day.
- A network of condom dispensers distributed by HEALTH will provide free condoms at venues such as night clubs, community health centers, and other locations across the state—to help remove access and cost as barriers for people who want to protect against the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
In Rhode Island, 2,200 people are living with HIV and an estimated 400 people do not yet know they are infected with HIV.
"It's important that the public knows where to get free and low-cost HIV testing, and how to get treatment if needed and to stay in treatment. Our campaigns and website will help direct and connect Rhode Islanders to these important resources, which includes our healthcare providers and community agencies who are critical in this effort," said Dr. Fine. "All Rhode Islanders should talk to their doctors about getting tested for HIV and other STDs. Knowing your status, early treatment, and continued care will help people infected with HIV to live long, healthy lives and avoid infecting their partners."
- Rhode Islanders who do not have a primary care doctor, who lack insurance, or who are concerned about out-of-pocket costs for testing may take advantage of convenient, anonymous, and free or low-cost HIV testing offered through HEALTH's year-round partnerships with organizations like AIDS Care Ocean State, AIDS Project Rhode Island, and MAP Behavioral Health Services. Visit: www.health.ri.gov/find/hivtestingsites/
- To find free condom distribution sites throughout Rhode Island, or to request a dispenser for your public or private facility, health center, night club, restaurant, or other business, visit www.health.ri.gov/healthyliving/sexualhealth/about/safersex/
- To view the new web portal that is part of the new social marketing campaign, visit: www.JustGetTestedRI.org.
- In Rhode Island, HEALTH works with the AIDS Care Ocean State (ACOS) ENCORE Program to provide needle exchange services that help reduce the risk of HIV transmission among injecting drug users (IDUs). ENCORE also offers counseling, HIV prevention and education, and referrals to substance abuse treatment and medical care facilities. Visit: www.aidscareos.org/ProgramsServices/PreventionCenter/NeedleExchange.aspx