Multi-million dollar routine testing campaign lacks results
Dr. Marsha Martin, Director of the Administration for HIV/AIDS Policy and Programs in DC, cannot win the fight without higher level political support, says new Appleseed report.
Washington, DC's $8 million HIV testing campaign has been poorly planned and is lacking in results, according to a new report by the DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. Based on a draft version of the CDC's federal testing recommendations, the "Come Together D.C., Get Screened for HIV" initiative garnered celebratory press coverage at its launch in June. Six months and millions of squandered taxpayer dollars later- the push for routine testing is already a cautionary tale to the rest of the country.
Like the rest of the nation- about a quarter of HIV-positive District residents don't know their status. With the highest rates of HIV prevalence in the country, testing is just not rolling out fast enough and not in the communities that need it most.
Squandering resources & ignoring IDUs
The report praised the testing initiative for getting underway, but showed that lack of planning has already led to wasted resources. The Administration for HIV/AIDS Policy and Programs (AHPP) bought 80,000 testing kits at $800,000, which organizers planned to distribute at no cost to hospital emergency departments, private physician offices, community health programs, detoxification centers and substance use and sexually transmitted infection treatment clinics. From June through September 2006, however, only 16,707 HIV tests were conducted in the publicly funded testing sites.
In addition to wasting taxpayer money on unused kits, the AHPP is ignoring opportunities to make testing accessible to those most at-risk of HIV infection. For example, testing at several public clinics that serve high-risk populations (TB, STD and detoxification) is not available on a full-time basis. Further, testing of the most marginalized injection drug users in the city was conducted for a brief period in Ward 7, but it has not continued.
"The Appleseed report reflected back to many of us who work in the field what we already knew - DC is interested in being perceived as a city that fights HIV/AIDS, but if you look at what they prioritize, the programs do not reach those who need them most," said Naomi Long, DC Area Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.
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