The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has unrolled an innovative new HIV prevention program, called “Testing Together,” to 21 major cities with high HIV prevalence, and Philadelphia is on that list.
The project, developed by Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, is the first of its kind designed specifically for gay-male couples. The focus is to provide couples the opportunity to find out their status together, and guide them through personal HIV prevention and care strategies. Why is a couples' testing program important? A recent study conducted by Emory and the CDC estimates that "one- to two-thirds of new HIV infections come from main partners among gay couples, and a significant number of men in longer-term relationships were unaware of their partner’s HIV status." Plus, as the "Testing Together" website points out, men who are coupled generally "feel less at risk for HIV and therefore less likely to get tested."
There is one local organization getting involved with the program: Penn HIV Prevention Research Division's Phillyvax.org, where local "Testing Together" Project Director Annet Davis-Vogel says couples can expect a highly supportive process. "Before the testing, you go through a session to make sure each person understands that you'll be getting tested and getting the results at the same time," she says. "You talk about the what-ifs." When you're both good to go, testing is administered and, when ready, a counselor will provide the results in a room with you both together. "At that time," she says, "you talk about how, as a couple, you can work together to sustain your negative status, or develop a treatment plan that's best for both of you."
Phillyvax is located at 3535 Market St. on the fourth floor. For more information, or to make an appointment, dial 215-287-4516. If you happen to be reading this and you're outside Philly, you can click here to see if the program is available near you.