AIDS Action is the public health division of Fenway Health and our services are designed for those most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. We empower our clients to live better lives by engaging with them to create practical, workable strategies to reduce their risk of HIV infection. We also assist clients with getting tested for HIV and obtaining medical care, housing, and access to benefits offered by state and federal agencies.
As a result, our clients are more likely to know their HIV status, connect with the health care system, and keep themselves and their families safer from HIV infection.
CLIENT SERVICES FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS
AIDS Action works to support people living with HIV/AIDS, improving their quality of life and increasing treatment adherence, which helps their individual health and the broader public health by reducing the likelihood of transmission. Our Client Services Department provides a comprehensive set of services for People Living with HIV in order to support their access to medical care and help them achieve HIV viral suppression.
During FY 2018 AIDS Action saw
Our Check-in volunteers provide phone calls to clients to connect and retain them in care and services.
Client advocates work with clients to help them access services, resources, and care to improve their health and self-sufficiency.
Stable housing is a critical factor in the success of people living with HIV getting and staying in care. Housing staff support clients with housing search, rental and utility assistance, and housing stabilization support.
AIDS Action helps Housing Search Program connect clients to a range of housing options, including transitional, permanent, congregate, and scattered site housing units. Our congregate housing sites offer services designed to help clients address life issues and work toward more permanent housing options. AIDS Action’s Rental Assistance Program helps prevent our clients and their families from becoming homeless when times are tough. In fiscal year 2019, we helped 1,289 households impacted by HIV move to stable housing or avoid homelessness.
AIDS Action’s Legal Services Department provides legal representation and advice from lawyers and legal interns to people living with HIV and AIDS.
Cases span a range of civil matters, including housing and rental disputes, divorce and custody cases, financial and end-of-life planning, and more. AIDS Action took on 225 new legal cases in fiscal year 2018, which covered a wide range of client needs, including housing and eviction, protection orders, and family law cases.
Drug User Health Services
As one of several state-sanctioned and state-funded syringe exchange programs in Massachusetts, AIDS Action’s Access: Drug User Health Program distributes and exchanges syringes to people who inject drugs. Access: Drug User Health Program is one of the state’s pilot sites for the distribution of Narcan, a nasal spray provided to IDUs and their network of supportive family and friends to reverse potentially fatal overdoses.
The program also operates a drop-in center where members can access:
Risk reduction supplies, such as crack kits, safer injection supplies, and condoms.
Periodic risk reduction counseling—both group and individual services.
Information and referrals to medical, substance use, and other social service providers.
Access provides a variety of other services, including HIV/HCV/STI testing, health navigation, support groups, street outreach and limited nursing care.
Sexual Health Services
Several of our programs are focused on HIV and STI prevention, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender individuals, populations with a disproportionate risk of getting HIV.
HIV/HCV/STI Testing and Prevention
We deliver HIV, hepatitis C, and STI confidential testing and counseling services within our targeted prevention programs. During fiscal year 2018, we conducted nearly 2,186 HIV tests on high-risk people who largely identified as gay and bisexual men, transgender people, and people who inject drugs. We identified 12 new cases of HIV and reengaged 49 previously diagnosed, out-of-care HIV positive individuals into HIV medical care and also referred 97 HIV positive clients to STD screening and/or treatment, 35 to housing services, and 79 to medication adherence support. In addition, we distributed 151,932 condoms.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV
AIDS Action Health Navigators and outreach staff can help connect at-risk individuals with providers who can talk to them about whether or not PrEP, an antiretroviral medication taken daily, might be a good option to protect them from HIV transmission.
TransCEND (Transgender Care and Education Needs Diversity) is a community-based HIV prevention and health education project is by and for transgender women. The program offers individual support, case management, health systems navigation, educational groups, risk reduction materials, and referrals to medical care and other community services. In addition, AIDS Action served 176 transgender or gender non-conforming clients across all programs, including TransCEND.
Youth on Fire
AIDS Action’s Youth on Fire is a program for homeless and street-involved youth, ages 14 – 24, which operates a safe and warm drop-in center that provides access to everything from hot showers, meals, and laundry to mental health and medical care and services. We also run a housing program that helps to get young adults off the streets and into safe housing situations so they can start rebuilding their lives. 185 homeless young people received services from Youth on Fire in fiscal year 2018. More than 3,600 have been helped since the program opened its doors in 2000.
Tackling the root causes of AIDS
AIDS Action Committee is Massachusetts’ leading voice for the HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C communities, advocating for critical funding and progressive public health policies that address the root causes of HIV/AIDS.
Getting to Zero
We lead the Getting to Zero Coalition, which works to create public health policies and systems that reduce HIV infections and connect those who are infected to care.
On August 31, 2017, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh signed the Paris Declaration on Fast-Track Cities making Boston the 12th U.S. city to join the global campaign to end the transmission of HIV through expanded local efforts. The Fast-Track Cities Initiative was launched in Paris on World AIDS Day 2014 where mayors from 27 cities in 50 countries signed the Declaration on Fast-Track Cities committing to do what was necessary to end the transmission of HIV in their locales. Boston’s commitment to the Fast-Track Cities initiative marks a significant advocacy achievement of the Getting to Zero Coalition outlined in the Getting To Zero’s blueprint for ending AIDS in Massachusetts, which is detailed in full in the Getting to Zero Coalition’s report, “Massachusetts Comprehensive Plan to Eliminate HIV Discrimination, AIDS Related Deaths, and New HIV Infections.”
In June 2018 the Getting to Zero Coalition hosted the statewide HIV Innovation in Action Conference. Over two hundred participants from across the state gathered to discuss disparities in HIV infection rates and health outcomes, with a particular focus on disparities among men who have sex with men, transgender communities, immigrants, and people who inject drugs. The theme of innovation was to challenge our coalition to develop creative strategies for program implementation and advocacy in the fight against HIV.
We work directly with key elected officials around issues that are important to people living with HIV/AIDS and on bills related to HIV treatment and prevention, health education in schools, housing and mental health access, LGBT discrimination, and employment and benefits issues that affect self-sufficiency. And we advocate for increased funding of HIV/AIDS and related programs.
In Fiscal Year 2018, AIDS Action Committee submitted public comment and testimony in support of the following bills:
“An Act Relative to HIV Screening and Prevention,” which would expand access to preventative services, including PrEP, for minors, who are currently allowed access and treatment for sensitive services, including HIV treatment.
“An Act to authorize public health workers to pursue new measures to reduce harm and stigma for people affected by substance use disorder,” which would authorize a pilot program of Supervised Injection Facilities, also called Harm Reduction Sites, Safe Consumption Sites, or Overdose Prevention Sites in Massachusetts.
“An Act relative to combatting addiction, accessing treatment, reducing prescriptions, and enhancing prevention (the CARE Act),” which would put in place a series of comprehensive actions to mitigate the opioid crisis. AIDS Action urged lawmakers to strike the involuntary 72-hour hold for patients with substance use disorder from the bill and include the creation of a Harm Reduction Commission to study the feasibility of a Harm Reduction Site pilot program in Massachusetts.
“An Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors,” which would prohibit conversation therapy in Massachusetts.
“An Act Relative to Protecting Access to Confidential Health Care,” which would update the confidentiality of explanation of benefits forms to exclude code sensitive services.
“An Act Relative to Healthy Youth,” which would mandate that when sexuality education is taught in Massachusetts schools, it must be medically accurate; inclusive of LGBTQ people; and cover consent and healthy relationships including how to recognize abusive behavior.
AIDS Action is a key member of Project ABLE (AIDS Budget Legislative Effort), a statewide coalition of AIDS service providers, advocates, and people living with HIV. Since the early 1990s, Project ABLE has raised awareness among lawmakers and fought for state funding for HIV/AIDS by working effectively with several Governors and their respective administrations, the Massachusetts Legislature, and through mobilization of a grassroots network of HIV/AIDS service providers, advocates, and people living with HIV.
In Fiscal Year 2018, we organized an Advocacy Day at the Statehouse during which attendees visited their legislators to advocate for $30.8 million for the HIV/HCV line item in the state budget, which would restore the $2.5 million cut during the previous year. In July, 2018, lawmakers passed and the governor signed a budget with the full funding of $30.8 million for the HIV/HCV line item.
If you are interested in becoming an AIDS Action client or learning more about our services, contact us:
Youth on Fire Drop-in Center for Homeless and Street Involved Youth
1 Church St.
Cambridge, MA 02138