“Stigma is still a big concern around HIV,” says Michel McVicker-Weaver, the D.C.-Maryland regional director for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “There’s also a lack of information around the effectiveness of treatment. A lot of people feel it’s a hopeless diagnosis, so it’s not something they necessarily want to test for.”
AHF is working hard to combat that stigma, through a series of outreach efforts designed to get as many people as possible tested and — if necessary — on treatment.
“There are individuals who are very involved in the community, who are aware of HIV, know how testing works, and get tested regularly as part of their wellbeing,” says Dr. Roxanne Cox-Iyamu, medical director at AHF’s Blair Underwood Wellness Center on K Street. “But there are other people who it’s much tougher to get into care, which is why we advertise at bus shelters around town, advertise in local newspapers and magazines, and appear at community events like Capital Pride, Black Pride [and] Trans Pride.”
AHF has two wellness centers in D.C. and another in Temple Hills, Md., and is planning to open a fourth in Baltimore City in early 2019.
It offers a range of services, including primary medical care, walk-in HIV and STD testings, pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis, and pharmaceutical services.
Cox-Iyamu says that having a “one-stop shop for everything, from STD services to pharmaceutical needs” is beneficial for patients.
“Many people prefer for their HIV provider to be their primary care provider due to the trust that develops between the patient and doctor,” she says.
AHF also has a 24-hour hotline where people can speak with a specialist who can link them with care, and provide them with educational information and emotional support.
The organization’s local chapters also sponsor “The Ask Rayceen Show” and partner with local affiliates like Impulse DC for political panels, community forums, and health care fairs to spread awareness about the importance of HIV/STD testing and treatment.
“Knowledge is power, and people are the drivers of their own care,” says Cox-Iyamu. “We offer a caring and compassionate environment that will give people the information to take charge of their own health and make the decisions that are best for them. Simply knowing your status and seeking treatment is a positive, proactive step to take.”
AIDS Healthcare Foundation has three D.C. locations: the Blair Underwood Wellness Center at 2141 K St. NW; the AHF Healthcare Center at 1647 Benning Rd. NE, and the AHF Wellness Center at 4302 St. Barnabas Rd., in Temple Hills, Md. For more information, service hours, or to make an appointment for testing or treatment, visit hivcare.org.