The COLOURS organization has opened a new testing site in North Philadelphia, which has one of the highest HIV rates in the city.
The new location, at 2829 Diamond Street in the Strawberry Mansion section, is the only one of its kind in the area to provide free HIV testing.
“I was shocked to learn that no one is servicing an area that has one of the highest rates of HIV,” said Juaraz Crosby, COLOURS’ prevention-navigation assistant. “We’re stepping out of Center City and taking our services to the areas that need it the most. Since we’ve stepped in, more people have become motivated to learn their status and are even seeking out our services beyond our testing days.”
The LGBTQ health-services organization targeting people of color is looking to counter the high HIV rates in Strawberry Mansion, east of Fairmount Park. According to AIDSvu.org, which maps HIV-prevalence rates across the United States, Strawberry Mansion is among five areas in the city with the highest rate of HIV. AIDSVu reported in 2016 that almost 19,000 people were living with HIV in Philadelphia, with African-Americans comprising nearly 64 percent of those cases.
“HIV is affecting our community in disproportionate numbers, and the areas that are most affected are low-income, high-crime communities like Strawberry Mansion,” Crosby said.
The Strawberry Mansion resident saw that the neighborhood needed more medical services. The area has a community-health center but many people don’t go, he added. COLOURS partnered with the Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center and hosted its first testing event in July. The center provides assistance with housing, job opportunities, counseling and other community-related services.
Tonnetta Graham, president of the Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center, said the high HIV rates in the neighborhood could be a direct result of the lack of resources there.
“The neighborhood often gets overlooked because of the issues that surround us. We need more services and resources that focus on the health and wellness of those who live here,” she said.
A free HIV-testing back-to-school event will take place at the new Strawberry Mansion site Aug. 25 from noon-4 p.m. Participants are encouraged to donate school supplies for local students in need. There will be supply drop-off locations at the COLOURS headquarters at 1211 Chestnut St. and the Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center.