New HIV prevention services available for black community in Los Angeles

The Black AIDS Institute has opened a PrEP clinic at its Westlake office to help combat HIV in the black community. Photo: Black AIDS Institute.

WESTLAKE —  Thanks to a strategic partnership with St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, the Black AIDS Institute has expanded its services and opened the first PrEP clinic geared toward the black community in Los Angeles.

In April, the both groups will launch a black men’s health clinic, and by the end of the year, a drop-in center and primary care clinic will open in Compton.

The Black AIDS Institute is the only national HIV-AIDS social service agency and think tank in the U.S. focused exclusively on the black community.

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“To be able to marshal all of those resources in partnership with the Black AIDS Institute, in a culturally sensitive and empowering way, breaks down many of the barriers that exist to the black community accessing care,” Jim Mangia, president and CEO of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, said in a statement.

HIV PREVENTION CLINIC

The no cost PrEP clinic, which will begin operating weekly Monday and be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., is located at the Black AIDS Institute office in Westlake, 1833 W. Eighth St.

PrEP is a medication that has been shown to reduce HIV from sex by more than 90 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. black, primarily gay/bisexual/same gender loving men and transgender women, make up nearly half of all the new HIV infections.

USING AVAILABLE TOOLS

“We know that black people are not using PrEP in the same way that we are being affected by HIV,” Raniyah Copeland, the director of programs for the Black AIDS Institute, said in a statement. “If we don’t start using the tools that are available to us, we’re going to start seeing the huge disparity between black and white HIV infection rates getting even larger.”

ALSO READ: Battling HIV in the black community

In addition to regular HIV services such as counseling, testing, and linkage services, the HIV prevention clinic provides on-site PrEP linkage, HIV treatment, and other clinical services.
All HIV tests, consultations, and laboratory work are free.

BARRIERS TO ACCESS

Copeland says that black people face unique barriers accessing PrEP, including a history of medical mistrust, a lack of PrEP providers, and an overall shortage of culturally competent and socially responsive medical professionals.

The Institute’s prevention-clinic staffers tested 29 people for HIV in the Westlake and MacArthur Park neighborhood on February 7, National Black HIV-AIDS Awareness Day.

  • 2 people tested positive for HIV, 1 person was linked to care and 1 person is being followed by a treatment advocate
  • 2 people who previously tested positive for HIV were also linked to care
  • 6 people received referrals for PrEP
  • 4 people received prescriptions for PrEP

With the new clinic and other programs, the Institute will address HIV deficiencies in its backyard.

NEW HEALTH CLINIC, DROP-IN CENTER

For two days a week starting April 20, the institute and St. John’s will open a black men’s primary care clinic in Leimert Park at the intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and Vernon Avenue.

In December, a “drop-in” center-clinic that will function as a community space focused on the needs of young, black gay men is scheduled to open in Compton. The center will feature workshops and programs related to job readiness, continuing education, linkage to essential services like housing, mental health, substance use, and access to health care.

In the statement, Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the institute, said these services are critical because “health is often at the very bottom of black men’s priority list.  When it comes to accessing healthcare, black men fare worse than women or white men.”

‘LEARN FROM EACH OTHER’

Wilson also said the center will provide a space for black gay men to learn from each other.

“One thing that young, black HIV positive gay men feel is that people care about their disease, but don’t care about them,” Wilson said. “We want young men to know we see them. We hear them. We care about them, all of them. The center will provide a place for them to learn from each other, how to thrive if they’re living with HIV, and how to thrive if they are HIV free.

“We want to create an environment where young, black gay men see themselves through their assets,” Wilson said, “and not through their perceived shortcomings.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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