Associated Press (11.22.11) - Wednesday, November 23, 2011
A program that offers District residents free HIV testing
while they wait at one Department of Motor Vehicles branch has
won an award to expand the service to an office where people
register for food stamps, Medicaid, and other assistance. At
the new location Monday, 60 residents took the test and
received a $5 gift card to a local grocery store.
"You have to meet people where they are," said Sheila
Brockington, who oversees testing at the DMV office. "You're
waiting anyway. You might as well."
To ensure confidentiality, the DMV outreach has its own
separate office. So far, more than 5,000 people have been
screened there. Run by the nonprofit Family and Medical
Counseling Services (FMCS) Inc., the project won a $250,000
grant to do the testing and secured the support of the DMV and
the city Health Department. A second, similar grant is funding
At the DMV office, pitching the test comes easy for staff
members: The oral fluid-based HIV test is free; $7 will be
taken off the DMV bill; it will not hurt; and testers will not
lose their place in line. "We don't do blood. We do swabs,"
tester Karen Johnson tells patrons, explaining that it takes
just 20 minutes for results.
FMCS head Angela Wood came up with the idea for DMV-based
testing after sitting in a DMV office herself. While officials
initially doubted many would agree to test at the DMV, 25 to
35 people do so daily. Less than 1 percent have tested
positive so far. For those who do test positive, FMCS provides
a free ride to a nearby office where they can arrange for
counseling and a doctor's appointment.