Community organizations may be important settings for youth to get
tested, according to the authors of a new report. Their study in
Baltimore, Maryland, however, showed that most organizations serving
youth there do not test for HIV and few can connect youth to places
to get tested.
“These settings are often located close to where young people live
and thus may be alternate testing locations that are easier to
access than traditional clinical settings,” lead author Dr. Arik
Marcell told Reuters Health by email.
Marcell added that young men in racial/ethnic minorities, or who
have sex with men, may be at great risk for HIV infection.
“However, HIV testing rates are low among this population, in part
because of inadequate access to testing, and this results in many
young people not knowing their HIV status,” said Marcell, a
professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of
Medicine in Baltimore.
In 2014, more than one in five diagnoses of HIV were among youth
ages 13 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
To determine whether youth organizations in Baltimore provide HIV
testing, the study team conducted phone surveys in 2013 and 2014
with 51 heads of youth community organizations.
As reported in Public Health Reports, the organizations were located
in areas identified as high risk for HIV and included afterschool
programs, community centers, LGBTQ centers, recreation centers, and
In the survey, the researchers asked whether the organizations
provided HIV testing and whether a staff member conducted the tests.
Organizations that did not offer testing were asked if they referred
youth to other programs for testing.
The results showed that a minority - 40 percent - of organizations
serving youth offered HIV testing. Most offered testing through an
Among the 60 percent of organizations not offering testing, the
majority - 73 percent - did not offer to connect youth to other
settings that could provide testing.
Most of the organizations offered services not related to health,
though they perceived their staff to be knowledgeable about health
resources and comfortable discussing sexual health.
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Organizations offering general health services were more likely to
provide HIV testing. Settings where staff were more comfortable
talking with youth about sexual health were also more likely to
In addition, settings that provided referrals for STI screening and
HIV care were more likely to offer HIV screening.
“Knowing one’s HIV /status is powerful, and is the portal to
life-saving antiretroviral therapy,” said Ann Kurth, the dean of the
Yale School of Nursing in New Haven, Connecticut, who studies youth
access to HIV testing.
“Agencies that work with youth have an opportunity to help them
navigate the seasons of risk around sexually transmitted infections
including HIV, and should make HIV testing available and
Kurth said all young people should get tested for HIV at least once,
and those at higher risk should get re-tested regularly.
“Young people need access to HIV testing, treatment, and prevention.
Agencies that work with youth should provide those services or work
closely with agencies that do offer them,” Kurth said.
“Agencies that wish to improve their HIV-related care can use CDC
resources available at hivtest.org and gettested.cdc.gov to help
review their organization’s HIV testing readiness and identify local
HIV testing sites with which to partner/collaborate and/or link to,”
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