As New Yorkers continue to get vaccinated and COVID-19 infection rates have stabilized, GMHC is gradually reopening its doors to clients and those in need of HIV and STI testing services.
GMHC’s Testing Center is now open by appointment only two days per week on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Appointments can be made online or by calling 212-367-1100.
Since the Testing Center closed last March, GMHC has maintained its HIV testing services by distributing FDA-approved oral self-tests. “We had to get creative in meeting our communities’ needs during COVID,” said Omi Singh, GMHC’s Testing Center director. “But we did not see high demand for these self-tests because people’s priorities shifted due to concerns about COVID.”
Prior to the pandemic, GMHC conducted almost 3,000 HIV tests a year using an FDA-approved finger prick test that generates results in 20 minutes. In addition, the Testing Center offers tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and hepatitis C. All tests are free and confidential.
Singh and her team are hopeful that the reopening of the Testing Center will make HIV/STI testing more accessible than it has been in some time.
Over the last year, the Testing Center has been providing HIV self-tests and off-site HIV testing.
DK, a 31-year old gay identified and Bronx resident, used the OraQuick HIV self test provided by GMHC earlier this year. He needed his HIV test results to qualify for a prescription for PrEP. “I thought I would be negative, but was more worried about messing up the test than my HIV status,” he said. “I’m sexually active and practice safe sex, but there have been some slips.”
GMHC counselors provided DK with information about the OraQuick test before and after he took it. They also shared information about HIV, PrEP and PEP, and medical care providers.
“It’s great you can do the test and then speak to someone from the comfort of your own home,” said DK.
In addition to OraQuick tests, GMHC has been providing rapid HIV testing services through a Mobile Testing Unit that travels to communities around New York City. Singh anticipates that GMHC will continue providing this service at least through June.
Community partners are a key part of bringing HIV/STI testing services to the communities that GMHC serves. Over the last year, GMHC has partnered with St. John’s Lutheran Church on Christopher Street to provide on-site HIV testing three days a week. As the pandemic recedes, Singh hopes that off-site testing programs can be resumed at other organizations including the NYC Anti-Violence Project and New York Sports Clubs.
GMHC continues to leverage social media to get the message out about the availability of HIV and STI testing services. Through campaigns such as “Sex, Intimacy and the Pursuit of Happiness” and “Age is Not a Condom,” the agency also addresses sexual health and intimacy issues during COVID and demystifies myths about sexuality and older adults.
For more information on accessing GMHC HIV testing services or how to become a community partner, call 212-367-1100 or para Espanol (212) 367-1227.
Photo caption: A Testing Center staff member draws blood from a person for an HIV test.