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.
Services for people living with and at risk for HIV
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. AIDS Action 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 FY2020 AIDS Action saw
Access 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.
Before the onset of COVID-19, the program operated a drop-in center where members could 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.
With the temporary closure of the drop-in center, Access staff quickly pivoted to street outreach by foot, bike, or van to make sure the clients who rely on them continued to receive life-saving supplies and services, including HIV/HCV/STI testing, health navigation, support groups, and limited nursing care.
Our Check-in volunteers provide phone calls to clients to connect and retain them in care and services.
HIV, HCV and STI Testing and Prevention
We deliver HIV, hepatitis C, and STI confidential testing and counseling services within our targeted prevention programs. During fiscal year 2020, we conducted nearly 1,428 HIV tests among MSM, transgender people, and people who inject drugs. We identified 8 new cases of HIV and reengaged 89 previously diagnosed, out-of-care HIV positive individuals back into HIV medical care. Staff identified 566 individuals at risk of contracting HIV, HCV and/or STIs.
Stable housing is a critical factor in the success of people living with HIV getting connected to and staying in care. Housing staff support clients with housing search, rental and utility assistance, and housing stabilization support. AIDS Action’s Housing Search Program connects clients to a range of housing options, including transitional, permanent, congregate, and scattered site housing units. Our supportive housing programs provide subsidies and supportive services to families and individuals living with HIV who are exiting homelessness. AIDS Action’s Rental Assistance Programs delivers short-term emergency assistance to clients who face eviction or unaffordable housing, need assistance with move in costs and need assistance with high utility bills to avoid shutoff. In fiscal year 2019, we helped 1,193 households impacted by HIV move to stable housing or avoid homelessness through one or more of these housing options.
Number of households affected by HIV that AIDS Action helped:
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 193 legal cases in fiscal year 2019, which covered a wide range of client needs, including housing and eviction, protection orders, and family law cases.
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. Prior to the onset of COVID-19, staff conducted outreach sessions among these individuals and distributed 4,900 safer sex kits and provided access to culturally competent care to transgender clients through the TransCEND program. Transgender and gender nonconforming clients were engaged in monthly movie nights, biweekly drop-in groups, and PrEP educational sessions. In fiscal year 2020, 52 clients were provided PrEP adherence support and the program was able to engage 231 MSM under 30, one of the groups at highest risk of becoming infected with HIV.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our sexual health services adapted to reach their clients online and by phone. The team also worked with staff from The Fenway Institute and Communications Department to create a guide to COVID-19 and sexual health.
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.
173 homeless or unstably housed young people received services from Youth on Fire in fiscal year 2020. When the program was forced to temporarily close its drop-in center due to COVID-19, they began offering virtual groups and connection to life-saving resources through information update regularly on their Facebook page as well as online and telephone outreach.