First-ever couples HIV testing service in the U.S. for men who have sex with men

NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwired – Oct 17, 2013) – Today, Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health announced that it is transitioning management of a valuable, new HIV training program to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Brought to life with funding from the MAC AIDS Fund and modeled after a successful HIV testing program in Africa, the training prepares local HIV/AIDS organizations and health departments to deliver the first-ever couples HIV testing and counseling service in the United States for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. The new service — called “Testing Together” — enables male couples to learn their HIV status together and develop a customized HIV prevention and care strategy at no charge in most locations. After the transition, CDC will roll out the training — which has been successfully piloted in several major U.S. cities — to organizations across the country.

“Most HIV prevention programs focus on individuals or groups of gay men when, in fact, most new HIV infections come from main partners in a relationship. Our ‘Testing Together’ program is the first HIV testing service geared specifically toward meeting the needs of male couples,” said Patrick Sullivan, DVM, PhD and Professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. “We’re happy that our collaboration with CDC is bringing this program to more HIV organizations in major cities throughout the nation. Bringing this service to scale for male couples was made possible by the generous support of the MAC AIDS Fund.”

In 2009, Sullivan and his colleagues at CDC conducted research that estimated one-to two-thirds of new HIV infections came from main partners among gay couples. Follow-up research, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and conducted by Emory University, found that a significant number of men in longer-term relationships were unaware of their partner’s HIV status. In fact, many gay men in relationships believed that they were less at risk for HIV and were therefore less likely to have been recently tested for HIV. NIH-supported research showed that providing HIV testing for male couples was promising, but bringing this new service to men beyond the initial study in Atlanta would be a challenge.

To encourage awareness and combat a growing rate of new HIV infections among gay men in the United States, Emory engaged the MAC AIDS Fund in March 2011 to provide startup funding to pilot the innovative “Testing Together” program in Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, San Diego and Seattle. Designed to prevent new infections and improve linkage to care, the program trains HIV community-support organizations in testing and counseling skills specifically for gay couples, including ways to cope with an HIV-positive status, maintain safer behaviors between partners and help navigate treatment when one or both partners is found to be HIV-positive.

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