Engaging At-Risk Communities Through Outreach

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Providing Services Where Needed

HIV Team hits the town to expand outreach

Yesterday was National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day to increase HIV education, testing, community involvement, and treatment among black communities. African Americans continue to experience higher rates of HIV compared to other races and ethnicities. In 2015, African Americans made up about 12% of the US population, but accounted for 45% of new HIV diagnoses. Among all African Americans, African American gay and bisexual men account for the majority (58%) of new diagnoses.

Outreach programming and testing have become integral at Center on Halsted in reaching the diverse populations at risk for HIV/AIDS throughout the Chicagoland area. Not only are the staff engaged in identifying potential clients through innovative techniques, such as geosocial applications like Scruff, Grindr and Jack’d, but they have ensured that Center on Halsted has a vibrant presence beyond the Lakeview neighborhood. In an expanded partnership with Walgreens, Center on Halsted is now testing in locations all across the city, specifically in areas where individuals are at higher risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and were services are less readily available. These include the Austin, West Garfield Park, East Garfield Park, Near West Side, and North Lawndale neighborhoods.

“Some of the clients we see in this program don’t have the access or comfort level to come to Center on Halsted’s brick and mortar location,” says Melvin Laureano, Director of Youth Empowerment at Center on Halsted. “Furthermore, others feel that because we are an LGBTQ site, this may jeopardize anonymity. Our ability to go out into the community and build relationships correlates directly with our success.”

This is exactly what the HIV team has done. Each week, the team commits to a handful of events and tactics. Beyond a presence on geosocial applications, staff members and volunteers have integrated their presence at bars and clubs, gyms, other agencies, convenience stories, and on the streets of Chicago. In the last year alone, staff and volunteers distributed over 100,000 male condoms and 4,500 Fc2 condoms via outreach.

“We build trust with these communities throughout Chicago,” says Daniel Mendez, the Chicago Department of Public Health Project Coordinator at Center on Halsted. “With each interaction we build our reputation as a premiere testing site. I always tell people, it’s more than handing over a condom pack to an individual. It’s about making the connection and letting an individual know we are here for them, whether to get tested, to receive a referral, or even just to talk about issues affecting day-to-day life.”

Interested in learning about upcoming HIV Outreach Testing locations? Visit our website at http://www.centeronhalsted.org/the-nxt-lvl/

Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s largest community center dedicated to advancing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Movement.

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