Northwell, CVS to Offer Free HIV Testing

Northwell Health will begin offering free HIV testing to promote prevention efforts around Long Island.Clinicians and outreach workers from Northwell’s Center for AIDS Research and Treatment (CART) at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset will collaborate with CVS Health to provide free, onsite HIV testing via Northwell’s mobile health van parked at select CVS Pharmacy locations throughout the area.

The effort will launch at the CVS Pharmacy in West Hempstead, located at 814 West Hempstead Ave., and is slated to start the third week of December.  The mobile health van will expand to other CVS Pharmacy locations during the first quarter of 2019.The effort will focus on communities where HIV is prevalent, including Huntington Station.

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.”

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