As a part of efforts to build healthier, thriving communities across Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is joining leading HIV prevention organizations in urging Rhode Islanders between 13 and 64 years of age to get tested at one of four free or low-cost HIV testing events on June 27th, National HIV Testing Day.
"All Rhode Islanders deserve the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life – yet in Rhode Island, approximately 280 people are living with HIV and don't know it. These HIV testing events are perfect opportunities for every Rhode Island teenager and adult to learn his or her HIV status and, if need be, get connected to vital medical care," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "Testing is particularly important in the communities where we see higher rates of HIV, such as in the community of men who have sex with men, among African Americans, and among Latinos."
Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 years old should be tested for HIV at least one time. People who have unprotected sex or who share injection drug paraphernalia should get tested at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (for example, every 3 to 6 months).
The free or low-cost HIV testing events will be offered on June 27th at the following locations: • AIDS Care Ocean State: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 557 Broad St., Providence. (Walk-in testing, no appointment necessary.) • Crossroads RI: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.; 160 Broad St., Providence. (This testing site is run by AIDS Care Ocean State.) • AIDS Project Rhode Island: 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.; 9 Pleasant St., Providence. (Testing services are offered in Spanish and Portuguese too.) • Project Renew Drop-In Center: 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.; 105 Dodge St., Providence. (This testing site is for high-risk women and is located in a basement office at the First Tabernacle Church. Enter in the rear of the building near the pink sign.) In December 2015, RIDOH joined the international 90-90-90 campaign, which sets out ambitious testing and treatment targets for cities and states. The three targets are that by 2020, 90% of HIV-positive Rhode Islanders will know they are HIV positive, 90% of HIV-positive Rhode Islanders will be receiving treatment, and 90% of HIV-positive Rhode Islanders will have suppressed viral loads. Currently in Rhode Island, 89% of people infected with HIV know they are HIV-positive; 60% of people infected with HIV are getting treatment; and 56% of people infected with HIV have suppressed viral loads.
Rhode Island and Providence represent the first state-city 90-90-90 partnership. Other cities that have joined include Paris, Atlanta, Miami, and San Francisco.
"Last World AIDS Day, we pledged our support to the 90-90-90 campaign. Testing events such as the one we are hosting on June 27th are important steps in our work to reach those benchmarks, and to give all Rhode Islanders the chance to live long, healthy lives," said AIDS Project RI Executive Director Stephen Hourahan. "Testing is free, fast, and anonymous."
"A large number of persons with HIV are still undiagnosed, and the disease continues to spread. The importance of testing, and retesting cannot be over stressed," said AIDS Care Ocean State President/CEO Kenneth J. Mayer. "We have made great progress treating for HIV/AIDs, but without a safe and confidential method to identify those needing care, we cannot link people to treatment."
In 2015, there were 67 newly-identified cases of HIV in Rhode Island. In addition to men who have sex with men, African Americans, and Latinos, HIV rates are elevated among Hispanic Rhode Islanders and people who use injectable drugs. The count of 280 Rhode Islanders living with undiagnosed HIV is a projection generated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Across the United States, one in seven people who have HIV do not know they are infected.
Rhode Islanders who do not have primary care doctors, who do not have insurance, or who may not be able to afford testing costs may take advantage of free or low-cost HIV testing offered through RIDOH's year-round partnerships with community organizations. A listing of HIV testing sites is available online.