Take the test and access PrEP during OKC Pride

By Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief

Think HIV testing isn’t for Pride events? Think again. Anytime is an important time to get tested, especially at Pride events.

OKC’s HIV Co-op will be hosting an event during OKC Pride for not only testing but loads of education, including PrEP/Truvada information and access.

This free HIV and STI testing event will be held in conjunction with the OKC Pride events on June 22, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at both Expressions Community Center (ECC) and the Diversity Center. Both are located at the west end of the OKC strip near Youngs and 39th.

“The HIV Prevention and Education Cooperative is made up of representatives from community-based organizations in the OKC Metro who provide access to free testing and prevention for HIV and STIs,” said Cher Golding, Community Liaison for ASP Cares Community Pharmacy. “The Co-op is all volunteer and provides the free testing, educational outreach, and safer sex kit distribution through our partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.”

There will also be an information booth inside the Wreck Room with volunteers on hand to guide attendees to the testing locations. Also, Diversity Family Health will be available to prescribe PrEP.

“This is the very first-time PrEP screenings, and access will be available during Pride,” added Golding. “Representatives from Gilead, ASP Cares, Walgreens, and other providers will also be on hand to connect attendees with resources and answer their questions about PrEP.”

Golding said as far as the group has been able to research this is the first time someone can get information, free testing, immediate access to PrEP, or treatment services all in one stop during any Pride event across the country.

“It’s all about promoting the normalization of HIV Testing through visibility,” said Michael Maus, HIV Prevention Educator at Red Rock Behavioral Health Services.

Maus is also Chair of the HIV Prevention and Education Cooperative (Co-op) who is hosting this event. 

“OKC Pride is the one opportunity each year that the OK HIV Prevention Co-op has to reach thousands of people.”

Maus said HIV and STD educators would like to encourage everyday people to think about having everyday conversations about HIV awareness and testing.

“The mission statement of the OK HIV Prevention Co-op is, ‘To collectively promote HIV prevention in Oklahoma City and the surrounding vicinity.’ One of our strategies is to reduce HIV stigma through education, outreach, awareness, and a strong presence in the most affected communities. OKC Pride is a terrific opportunity to meet these goals.”

Maus said the unique things that the OK HIV Prevention Co-op does is to promote HIV testing as a key to prevention, linkage to care, and healthy living with HIV, normalize the correct use of condoms, PrEP, PEP, and other methods of risk-reduction.

“These prevention and education tools are utilized with outreach and education to individuals on the most medically accurate and up-to-date information about living with HIV, HIV prevention and self-care,”  he said.

Russell “Rusty” Rooms, APRN with Diversity Family Health said PrEP is a proven strategy to keep people from getting HIV and is 92-100 percent effective at doing so. He said these events are important because there is a larger group of at-risk people at Pride events.

“Other STD’s are very curable with antibiotics and being seen by a provider that can take into consideration encounter activity every three months can decrease the spread of disease and any sequela [consequence of the disease] that result from coming in contact with these STI’s.”

Diversity Family Health is located in the Diversity Center at 2242 NW 39th, and ECC is located at 2245 NW 39th.

“Sex is an innate need and on the lowest rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,” Rooms said. “It is not something of which you should be ashamed whether you are in a relationship with someone who has HIV or not.”

He added, “Through the Co-op program, there will be no cost for the testing, the sexual health visit that includes the prescribing of Truvada, or the drug itself. Everything is at no cost to the individual. If they have insurance, the insurance will be billed for the medication, but the Gilead co-pay will be used to cover the amount, if any, the insurance doesn’t cover.

Rooms said there would be PrEP educators at the event to complete the application for attendees and process the information.

“We can get the drug in their hand either same day or by Monday.”

Copyright The Gayly. 6/9/2019 @ 3:14 p.m. CST.