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Washington, DC Residents to Receive HIV Testing at DMV

In response to the devastating rates of HIV in Washington, D.C., as well as the aim to reduce stigma attached to getting tested for the virus, District of Columbia officials recently created the first-ever pilot program for rapid oral HIV testing at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The program went into effect in early October at the Penn branch of the DMV in southeast Washington, a location chosen by city officials due to the rising HIV rates in Ward 7, where the branch is located, and the surrounding area, Ward 8.[1] As an added incentive to the program, participants will receive up to $15 to help with the cost of DMV services.
The District of Columbia’s Department of Health is partnering with Family and Medical Counseling Services, a nonprofit organization based in the southeast part of the city, to provide funding for the program. The city’s AIDS rate ranks first in the United States, with 148.1 cases per 100,000 persons, compared to the national rate of 12.5 cases per 100,000.[2] Family and Medical Counseling Services is also being funded to run the DMV program for one year through a grant financed by the pharmaceutical company Gilead.[3]
Angela Fulwood Wood, chief operations officer of the Family and Medical Counseling Service, explains that even though the location is atypical for providing HIV services, the DMV was chosen due to the “cross-section” of people it caters to in the hopes of reaching and educating a diverse crowd. Notes Wood, “We realize that this is a nontraditional setting, but this program is about normalizing HIV and extending testing opportunities.”[4]
Although HIV/AIDS awareness programs have been operating in the District of Columbia for years, the current program is the first to be implemented at the DMV. “It gets around the hurdle of waiting for people to come in and ask for the test,” explains A. Toni Young, executive director of the Community Education Group. “[W]e see people we may miss through the medical system.”[5]
To ease apprehension on the part of individuals who may fear taking an HIV test and potentially testing positive in an environment that is not a health care facility, the Community Education Group has established a plan to provide counseling and medical attention to those who test positive so that they may receive the immediate care and counseling they need. Notes Young, ”I’m not going to give you a slip of paper and say the onus is on you, now go.” If participants test positive on the oral test, they will first receive counseling at the DMV and then be taken to the Community Education Group’s offices nearby for more extensive services. Follow-up calls are made within 24 hours.[6]
Originally, the program aimed to reach 3,000 D.C. residents during the first year, but there is reason to hope for an even greater number of residents participating in the program. According to Wood, the first couple of weeks have gone “better than expected,” with people coming in at a steady rate. On one day 15 people were tested within the first two and a half hours of business.[7]

[1] Nikita  R. Stewart, “D.C. Brings HIV Testing to the Crowd at the DMV,” Washington Post, 30 September 2010, accessed 12 October 2010, <>.

[2] “Cases of HIV Infection and AIDS in the United States and Dependent Areas, 2007,” HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report 19(Atlanta: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009), accessed 13 October 2010, <>.

[3] Nikita R. Stewart, “Response to HIV Testing at DMV ‘Better Than Expected,’” Washington Post 5 October 2010, accessed 13 October 2010, <>.

[4] Faith Karimi, “Residents Can Get Tested for HIV as They Wait for Driver’s License,” CNN, 6 October 2010, accessed 12 October 2010, <>.

[5] Stewart, “D.C. Brings HIV Testing to the Crowd at the DMV.”

[6] Ibid.

[7] Stewart, “Response to HIV Testing at DMV ‘Better Than Expected.’”