Thursday, April 16, 2009

News from Disciples HIV/AIDS Ministry

The Disciples HIV/AIDS Ministry and Wabash Valley People Attempting To Help Inc. announced Tuesday a strategy to dramatically increase the availability of Rapid HIV testing for underserved communities in west-central Indiana via a mobile HIV prevention and testing van.

The announcement, made at Human Rights Day at Indiana State University, is part of a multipronged strategy to expand HIV/AIDS awareness and testing in communities throughout the state. This specific program will target Clay, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties.

“The first step in halting the spread of HIV/AIDS is through education and to ensure that as many people as possible know their status and are counseled on proper care and prevention,” said volunteer director Jody Grieb. “We stand ready to assist any community health center or clinic as they expand the availability of Rapid HIV testing in underserved communities.”

To cover the gap in testing services, Grieb “unveiled” a mobile testing van. When one participant asked to see the van, Grieb gestured over his shoulder to a large parking lot and noted, “It’s over there”. To keep the testing process as anonymous as possible, the van has no identifying marks or symbols. “DEBI,” as the van is called, can provide testing services anywhere they are needed. Grieb noted that anyone can request testing by calling the Disciples HIV/AIDS Ministry offices at (812) 232-1381, extension 343, or 888-346-2631, or by going online to www.discipleshomemissions.org/aidsministry.

The two clinics currently providing Rapid HIV testing are the Vigo County Health Department Clinic in Terre Haute and the Parke County Family Health and Help Center in Rockville. Grieb told participants that all community health clinics should expand access to Rapid HIV testing, including the Student Health Center at Indiana State University.

“As part of this initiative, I am encouraging every community health center and clinic to begin or increase their Rapid HIV testing,” Grieb said. “If we are going to reduce incidence of HIV/AIDS, we must have this fast, effective testing technology readily available to everyone.” Grieb also encouraged houses of worship to begin provide HIV testing at their sites as well.

Grieb noted that at the end of 2006, an estimated 1,106,400 people (95 percent confidence interval 1,056,400-1,156,400) in the United States were living with HIV infection, with 21 percent undiagnosed.

The Rapid test is important to slowing the spread of HIV because it overcomes a major obstacle in HIV testing. Getting the results in 15-20 minutes means people no longer have to wait one or two weeks and return to the testing site to get their results.

The test requires less than a single drop of blood from the fingertip. The fingertip is cleaned with alcohol and pricked with a needle to get a small drop of blood. Blood is transferred to a small plastic vial containing a solution. The test device is then inserted into the vial. The results can be read in as little as 20 minutes.

Grieb noted that since PATH began testing in October 2008, 99 percent of people who took the Rapid HIV test have received their results. Grieb cited a National Institute of Health study that estimates as many as 40 percent of those who have a traditional blood draw test never return for the results because it requires a two-week wait.

Grieb noted that of approximately 750 people his organization has tested in the Wabash Valley since October, 3 percent have tested positive for HIV antibodies.

The Disciples HIV/AIDS Ministry is a network of Disciples Home Missions, the enabling and coordinating division of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the area of congregational program and mission in North America. Wabash Valley PATH is a community-based organization in Terre Haute and is the Indiana liaison partner of the Disciples HIV/AIDS Ministry. Wabash Valley PATH is online at www.wvpath.org.

From the Terre Haute Trib-Star: http://www.tribstar.com/archivesearch/local_story_104225124.html

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