CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – Covenant House is encourgaing people to get tested for HIV and Hepatitis C through a new incentive – gift cards.
The local non-profit works alongside the CAMC Ryan White Program and West Virginia Health Right providing free screenings, which are now offered weekly.
CAMC Ryan White Program Director, Christine Teague said, “for people who are dealing with issues of poverty, stigma, homelessness and despair, you know a $10 gift card can be very meaningful.”
Covenant House Executive Director, Ellen Allen said it’s a small incentive that can prevent treating diseases that may cost $50,000-$60,000 a year.
The objective to this new initiative is to be more proactive in curbing the epidemic and make testing more accessible.
“It’s especially important right now because of the opioid epidemic and increase in IV drug use. We feel that this is a public health issue of our time,” said Allen.
Getting tested requires either a finger prick or a mouth swab and takes about 20 minutes to get results.
Today alone 50 people got tested and out of those 50, all tests came back negative.
“Which I think is a very positive message that we need to get out into the community. That we did reach quite a few people today. Nearly half of them did report injecting drug use, so I’m comfortable, I feel like we’re reaching the population that needs to be reached,” said Teague.
Teague also wants to remind people that HIV can’t be detected immediately after exposure. If at risk, wait three months to get screened and that annual screening should become a part of one’s health routine.
If tested positive, CAMC offers free treatment and also provides free buss passes for those who can’t drive to appointments.
The Kanawha County Health Department also provides free screenings.