Virginia’s Initiative for National HIV Testing Month
June is National HIV Testing month across the nation, and the state of Virginia is taking their own initiative to support prevention and community-based HIV testing programs.
National HIV Testing day is on June 27, and many faith congregations, including Christian and Muslim faiths, will be partnering with The Balm In Gilead to host an HIV testing event. The Balm In Gilead is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that has developed educational and training programs to prevent diseases, as well as to improve the health status primarily within the African American community.
For 23 years, Balm In Gilead has built faith structures on a national level to provide their health services to every urban center and rural village.
The Balm In Gilead has set a goal to prompt a minimum of 1000 congregations across America to host an HIV testing event on June 27. For the state of Virginia, the organization expects 50 congregations to participate. Within these communities, The Balm In Gilead seeks to establish organizational and leadership that makes HIV testing a congregational priority for the month of June 2012.
The group would also like to prompt these congregations to provide HIV information, testing and treatment education, in order to increase preventative behavior. They encourage the establishment and development of congregational services with health care providers for HIV positive individuals, and will aid congregations in acquiring referral linkages with local health care services, health departments and Administrative Services Only (ASOs).
Historically, the state of Virginia restricted HIV testing through Section 124 of Public Law 100-322. This law prohibited widespread HIV testing; however, the law was later repealed in October of 2008. It wasn’t until August of 2009 that legislation was passed forcing HIV testing to become routine, instead of risk-based, also removing the requirement of written informed consent and pre-and-post test counseling following HIV testing.
Now, VA has prompted various strategies to increase HIV testing, such as legislation changes, forcing a shift from risk-based to routine testing, diminishing the requirement of written consent, the establishment of a model clinical reminder to enforce routine HIV testing, creation of grant funding for laboratory and clinical practice initiatives, and a social marketing campaign to unite providers and patients.
From 2009 to 2011, the performance number of HIV testing in VA has more than doubled, and the state of VA is now the largest provider of HIV care in the United States.
For more information on Balm in Giliad and National HIV Testing Day, visit http://www.balmingilead.org/.
Rachel Williams is a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University with a calling to be a voice to the voiceless; and passion is to bring gender equality and ethnic justice to the forefront of RVA.
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