As part of prevention efforts, CART staff will provide educational training to CVS staff and pharmacists about various aspects of HIV testing and screening.
In addition to this pilot program, CVS Health has donated 500 HIV in-home test kits, which allows people to perform an oral swab in the privacy of their home. Northwell plans to distribute the home testing kits at venues such as club nights and locations where the outreach team may be able to identify undiagnosed individuals who are at risk for the virus and are reluctant to walk into a health van to be tested.
“This new collaboration between Northwell and CVS Health will make a significant difference in increasing awareness about HIV testing in the communities we serve, improving the health of people who are HIV+ and supporting education efforts about preventing HIV,” said Joseph McGowan, MD, medical director of CART.
Research conducted this year by Dr. McGowan, identified local HIV “hot zones” – Hempstead, Westbury, Huntington Station on Long Island, and Rosedale and surrounding areas in eastern Queens.
The latest reports show there are 130,000 people living with HIV in New York State. On Long Island alone, 6,810 people are HIV-positive. McGowan said approximately 1,000 Long Islanders are unaware that they are HIV+ and thousands more are at risk for the disease.
“Thirty years ago, physicians and patients did not have many medical options for battling advanced-stage AIDS. There also were many roadblocks – political opposition, fear and stigma,” Dr. McGowan said. “Back then, we could never have imagined a time when people who are HIV+, could receive life-saving treatment to prevent the virus, restore health and prevent transmission.
“The medication PreP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, is now available for those who do not yet have HIV but are at a high risk of contracting the virus,” McGowan said. “In three decades, we’ve seen so many advances both medically and socially. There is a tremendous opportunity to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”