For Goodness Sake: Free HIV and AIDS screenings coming to North Philadelphia

- The HIV and AIDS crisis across the country has seen a dramatic decline. Even with seemingly good statistics, Damon Humes of COLOURS says the stats can be a little misleading.

“There’s not new infection among every community but among black MSM particularly young MSM, which is men who have sex with men, the infection rate seems to stay steady or spiral up in some communities,” said Humes.

Humes points out that overall, survival rates, testing and education are all encouraged everywhere except places like North Philadelphia.

“Black gay men, Latino gay men, the trajectory for us is out of 2 of us 1 will contract AIDS in their lifetime.  That’s 50 percent of us, that’s a daunting daunting statistic that scares me,” said Humes.

The stats are in Philadelphia and specifically North Philly and Strawberry Mansion communities that Humes and his COLOURS organization are deeply concerned about.  The fact that a largely preventable disease is still killing friends and peers moved them to do something different, bring the resources to the neighborhood.

“Communities that are hit by poverty often times have lack of resources so the same innovations that have reduced HIV infection in other communities don’t seem to have translated well in our community,” said Humes.

It doesn’t seem like it should be that unusual of an idea but setting up free testing sites and resources in the communities most in need wasn’t being widely done.  Prevention worker Jaurez Crosby realized this in his strawberry mansion neighborhood and decided to do something about it.

“The same resources and information that the center city area is getting the north Philadelphia, particularly the strawberry mansion area can get the same resources,” said Crosby.

Now they are opening centers at 10th and 28th and diamond and I have to admit the brief time I spent with outreach worker Will McNeil showed me how much information people can get quickly that’s free and impactful.

“We’ve gone from having to wait 7 to 14 days to now waiting 60 seconds,” said McNeil. “Prep is pre exposure prophylactics, it is an anti-retro drug that prevents you from contracting HIV.”

COLOURS is hosting community days and will soon have a constant presence in the few areas still with alarmingly high rates of HIV and AIDS. It is one of those cases where choosing to act could quite literally make the difference between life and death in inner cities.

For goodness sake.

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