Elton John AIDS Foundation Grant to Fund Mobile HIV Testing and Outreach Van in the Lowcountry

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Lowcountry AIDS Services is adding a mobile HIV testing van to its array of services that support people living with HIV and AIDS while also providing prevention, free testing and education. This new initiative – aimed at reaching rural and high-needs communities – is made possible by a $50,000 grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Formed 25 years ago, the Elton John AIDS Foundation has a mission of ending the AIDS epidemic by ensuring everyone has the information and means to prevent infection, and all people living with HIV have access to high-quality medical care and treatment. In 2017, the foundation gave out almost $9.5 million to organizations throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.

The new testing van furthers that mission for the tri-county area. In 2017, LAS embarked upon the initial phase of expanded testing, outreach and HIV prevention education to rural areas of Dorchester and Berkeley counties as well as targeted high-risk communities in Charleston County.

Stop HIV - Lowcountry AIDS ServicesLowcountry AIDS Services has partnered with Walgreens to offer free HIV and hepatitis C testing at eight locations across the tri-county area on a monthly basis. Additionally, LAS has formed a partnership with the detention centers in each county to offer testing for inmates. This first phase resulted in testing more than 250 individuals and the dissemination of prevention education to more than 1,000 individuals in rural and high-needs communities. With the addition of the mobile testing van, Lowcountry AIDS Services expects to test an additional 500 people.

In 2017 Lowcountry AIDS Services provided more than 1,600 free HIV tests and discovered 20 new HIV cases. Lowcountry AIDS Services provides free HIV testing at its office in North Charleston four days a week, and while that a great service to the community, it also puts the onus on people in need to secure transportation and other obstacles to testing and prevention and services.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Elton John AIDS Foundation for giving us the opportunity to help even more people in our community,” said Bradley Childs, executive director of Lowcountry AIDS Services. “For communities with high levels of poverty and limited health resources, whose residents are unable to find transportation to the metro Charleston area for care and testing, a mobile testing van allows us to provide services directly to individuals right in their own community, therefore, increasing our presence and raising awareness in these areas.”

HIV TestThe mobile testing van will be outfitted to provide a secure and confidential testing space, including a temperature-controlled environment necessary to maintain the effectiveness of the testing kits. This means Lowcountry AIDS Services can conduct community testing events on even the hottest summer day.

In addition to providing free and confidential HIV testing, the mobile testing van gives Lowcountry AIDS Services the opportunity to hand out free condoms, safer sex information and increase access to PrEP, a daily pill that can greatly reduce the risk of HIV infection.

Plus, individuals who test positive will be immediately linked to the medical case management team, which assists clients with services like prescription assistance, medication adherence counseling, public benefit assistance, housing assistance, emergency financial assistance, legal assistance, peer support groups, mental health counseling, drug addiction support and more.

Lowcountry AIDS Services expects to have the van outfitted and ready for testing throughout Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties by the end of the first quarter.

Lowcountry AIDS Services Receives Grant to Expand HIV Testing, Education Program in Rural, High-Risk Communities

Media Release: NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Over the next 12 months, Lowcountry AIDS
Services will be expanding its HIV testing and prevention efforts into
rural areas of Berkeley and Dorchester counties as well as into
high-risk areas of Charleston. To help fund the program, LAS has
received a $35,400 grant from the Roper Saint Francis Physicians
Endowment.

In a partnership between the Medical Society of South Carolina and
Coastal Community Foundation, the endowment provides annual grants to
nonprofit organizations for the express purpose of improving health,
wellness and access for tri-county area residents. The grants committee
focuses on four community health needs, including access to services and
coverage for uninsured and underinsured. The committee also gives
priority to emerging needs in the community.

Lowcountry AIDS Services’ expansion highlights both of those areas.
The Charleston region has been identified by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention as an “emerging community” for its high rate
of HIV infections and AIDS cases. LAS identified a significant increase
in new HIV infections in 2015 with an almost 200 percent year-over-year
infection rate. Additionally, IV drug use, especially with opioids, has
been increasing nationwide, with rural areas hardest hit and adding risk
for further HIV infections.

HIV testing in rural communities helps LAS reach audiences that are
rarely offered HIV tests through their medical interactions and allow
for dissemination of educational information to help rural residents
make more informed decisions related to their sexual health.
Additionally, targeted, high-risk populations need increased
opportunities for access to testing and educational programming in
communities with reduced access to healthcare, lower income and higher
prevalence, such as jails and homeless shelters.

The funding provided by the Roper Saint Francis Physicians Endowment
will complement and expand LAS’ existing testing, outreach and HIV
prevention education which is funded through Trident United Way, the
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and private donors.

Program expansion provided by this grant will allow LAS to go beyond
performing free testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted
infections at its office in North Charleston four days a week. LAS
expects to reach an additional 20 percent by hosting testing events and
programs in areas outside its office – that equates to about 240 or
more additional individuals who will be tested and more than 1,000
people will receive educational materials and safer-sex materials to
help decrease potential for HIV and STI infections. All newly diagnosed
HIV-positive individuals identified through expanded testing will be
linked to medical care within 30 days.

LAS will add a part-time testing and prevention specialist to perform
off-site testing and prevention services two to three times per week.
These testing events will focus on partnerships with more than 20 rural
health clinics, in-community health providers, wellness clinics and
commercial pharmacies.

“In 2015, our agency identified 33 percent of the new HIV infections
from the entire statewide pool of those found by community based
organizations, even though we only cover about 15 percent of the state
population within our service area,” said Bradley Childs, LAS
executive director. “We know the need is great in our community and we
have to expand our outreach efforts. We are grateful to the Roper Saint
Francis Physicians Endowment for this funding so we can continue to help
even more individuals and connect them to medical care.”

About Lowcountry AIDS Services
Lowcountry AIDS Services is nonprofit organization serving men, women
and children living with HIV/AIDS in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester
counties. LAS provides case management, access to medical care, housing
assistance, financial assistance, nutritional assistance and legal
assistance along with an array of other supportive services to hundreds
in the Charleston area. LAS also works to prevent this epidemic through
education, media campaigns, community outreach and free, daily HIV/STD
testing. For more information, visit aids-services.com .

Lowcountry AIDS Services on Social Media

Facebook: facebook.com/LowcountryAIDSServices
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