On Valentine's Day, San Francisco AIDS Foundation unveiled a new mobile testing unit, an essential element in the plan to eliminate HIV transmission in San Francisco. The new unit—a 33-foot-long vehicle outfitted specifically for HIV and STI testing—will increase the availability of free testing in neighborhoods across the city at times when other HIV testing sites are closed.
"San Francisco is leading the fight against HIV, but we need to continue to provide the best services possible at times and in places where they are needed most," said Neil Giuliano, San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO. "Mobile testing is our way of saying 'we'll come to you.' The city and San Francisco AIDS Foundation have pledged to make San Francisco the first city to end HIV transmission, and pervasive HIV testing is a part of that strategy."
Three on-board counseling rooms—an increase from one on the old unit—ensure client privacy and confidentiality and allow for more people to receive services. The new unit will enable the foundation's mobile testing program to serve approximately 2,000 clients per year, up from 1,200.
In addition to greater capacity, the mobile testing unit will offer HIV RNA testing, which can detect recent or acute infections that HIV antibody tests cannot. There are also plans in coming months to provide additional screenings for asymptomatic STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
"The importance of mobile testing lies in its ability to engage people who might not seek out a test in a clinic," said Steve Gibson, Magnet director at San Francisco AIDS Foundation, who also oversees the foundation's mobile testing unit and works in collaboration with Glide Health Services, St. James Infirmary and AGUILAS. "It's particularly important to offer these expanded services. The new mobile unit allows us to do that for the first time."
The new mobile testing unit was made possible with funding from Chevron, Gilead Sciences, and Walgreens.
"For more than 30 years, Chevron has worked to improve access to health care services and we're proud of the progress that we have made in the fight against HIV/AIDS," said Dr. Huma Abbasi, general manager, Health and Medical for Chevron Corporation. "Together with our dedicated partners we remain committed to continuing to support efforts to eradicate HIV/AIDS."
"We are proud to support San Francisco AIDS Foundation in its efforts to increase community access to testing and education which we know is critical to being a part of the solution to end AIDS, a commitment we share." said Glen Pietrandoni, Walgreens senior director of virology. The new mobile testing unit began service on Saturday, in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco. Find the mobile testing unit @testmesf using Twitter, https://twitter.com/testmesf.
After more than 10 years of service, the old mobile testing unit was retired earlier this month. A familiar part of the San Francisco nightlife landscape, it also appeared in season 2 of the HBO television show, Looking.
San Francisco AIDS Foundation