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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 18 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 42
It's better to find out together - New HIV prevention program aimed at male couples
Section One
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It's better to find out together - New HIV prevention program aimed at male couples

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Testing Together, a new HIV prevention program for Gay couples, was rolled out on October 17.

Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, which developed the program, transferred management to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which will launch it in several major U.S. cities, including Seattle.

Based on a similar program in Africa, Testing Together enables male couples to learn their HIV status together and develop a customized HIV prevention and care strategy, at no charge in most locations.

In Seattle, couples' testing will be available at Gay City Health Project.

WHY IT'S NEEDED
'Most HIV prevention programs focus on individuals or groups of Gay men when, in fact, most new HIV infections come from main partners in a relationship. Our Testing Together program is the first HIV testing service geared specifically toward meeting the needs of male couples,' said Dr. Patrick Sullivan, a professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health.

'We're happy that our collaboration with CDC is bringing this program to more HIV organizations in major cities throughout the nation. Bringing this service to scale for male couples was made possible by the generous support of the M-A-C AIDS Fund,' Sullivan continued.

In 2009, Sullivan and his colleagues at CDC conducted research that found between one-third and two-thirds of new HIV infections came from the primary partners in Gay couples.

A follow-up study, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and conducted by Emory University, found that a significant number of men in longer-term relationships were unaware of their partner's HIV status. In fact, many partnered Gay men believed that they were less at risk for HIV and were therefore less likely to have gotten tested recently.

NIH-supported research also showed that providing HIV testing for male couples was promising, but would require training for HIV counselors and testers.

To date, more than 300 HIV counselors have been trained at 73 testing sites in 21 cities, and more than 450 Gay couples have learned their HIV status together. More than 8% of the men tested through this program were HIV-positive. At least 10% were previously undiagnosed cases in relationships where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not.

Funding for pilot Testing Together programs in five major cities - Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, San Diego, and Seattle - came from the M-A-C AIDS Fund.

CHANGING BEHAVIOR
'Even with the game-changing strides made in AIDS treatment as a means of preventing HIV, we cannot end the epidemic without equally powerful breakthroughs in HIV behavioral prevention for people heavily affected by HIV, like Gay and Bisexual men,' said Nancy Mahon, global executive director of the M-A-C AIDS Fund.

'For this reason, the M-A-C AIDS Fund will continue to invest in innovative and effective initiatives like Emory's Testing Together program, and we are so gratified that the CDC will be bringing this program to scale to reach more people nationwide.'

The M-A-C AIDS Fund, associated with M-A-C Cosmetics, was established in 1994 to support people affected by HIV/AIDS.

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