AIDS Service Organization in Nashua’s Free HIV-Testing Scheduled to End

On 06/11/2012

In recent news we have heard a lot about a new at-home HIV testing kit. The FDA was recently recommended to approve an over-the-counter screening test, made by OraSure Technologies. It is a very simple test, involving rubbing your gums with a pad and then placing the pad in a vial of fluid. In 20 minutes, you can find out your HIV status – in the privacy of your own home – similar to a home-pregnancy test.

The Southern New Hampshire HIV/AIDS Task Force, greater Nashua, NH’s only AIDS Service Organization,  believes that testing is a very important part to reducing the spread of this complex disease. The agency currently offers FREE and confidential HIV testing and counseling to high-risk community members, using tests made by OraSure – the same company who makes the at-home test kits being considered by the FDA. While the at home kits are purported to be just as accurate, getting tested at a site with professional staff well versed in HIV transmission can offer many benefits one cannot get at home, such as HIV transmission education and risk reduction counseling. Also, people who test positive at an agency like the Task Force are immediately connected to medical care and other necessary supports and staff can even help reach out to past and current partners of the HIV+ person, and offer free testing to them as well. Unfortunately, due to federal budget cuts, this important service is scheduled to end as of June 22, 2012. The Task Force is trying to raise awareness and much-needed funds from the community to continue to offer free testing at their agency. The cost to do this is minimal – about $5,000 to test those most at risk in the community for an entire year.

Wendy LeBlanc, Assistant Director of the Task Force, says, “We are very happy that there will be another source for testing that may be sold over the counter. It is good to see that certain authorities are paying attention to the need for early HIV testing, especially given the massive cuts going on nationwide to HIV/AIDS services. Additionally, we know that when someone knows their HIV status, they are more likely to be more cautious about their sex or needle sharing practices. Unfortunately, the cost of the tests makes it unlikely that those with the highest risk of contracting and spreading HIV will actually purchase them. Most of those we test have no health insurance and live at or below the poverty level – they won’t be able to afford a test when they have trouble paying for food and rent. ”

In addition to raising $5,000 to continue to offer HIV/AIDS testing, the Task Force must significantly ramp up its fundraising to raise $50,000 to continue to provide the case management, affordable housing,  mental health and substance use disorder treatment, food pantry and nutritional services, and other supportive services to their existing HIV+ clients. The Task Force plans to apply for grants, and through community awareness, increase the support of individual and corporate donors. Tax-deductible donations to the Task Force can be made here.

To learn more about the Task Force and the work they do, visit their Facebook page, watch a client video,  or website.



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