New HIV Program Tests Couples Together


DETROIT -

AIDS Partnership Michigan announced Testing Together, a new HIV testing and counseling service for male couples/sexual partners. Testing Together, provides an opportunity for male couples/sexual partners to get tested for HIV together and receive their results together in a safe, neutral environment in a way that affirms their relationship and allows for open discussion about safer sex.

"Recent research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control suggests that up to 68 percent of new HIV infections in gay men come from a main sex partner, not from casual sex, in part because main sex partners are more likely to forgo condoms," said Hank Millbourne, APM's associate executive director. "Furthermore there are few interventions or vehicles that affirm male same-sex relationships. Testing Together does that in a very honest and open way."

Trained counselors help male couples through discussions about not only their HIV test results but in developing skills for addressing issues around HIV and having continued dialogue about sex within the context of their relationship. Counselors also can help couples to talk openly about building a risk reduction plan together.

Partners testing together was first developed more than 20 years ago and utilized with heterosexual couples in Africa and found to reduce HIV transmission by more than 50 percent. The intervention was adapted for use with male same-sex couples by Emory University researchers, Patrick Sullivan and Rob Stephenson. Focus groups and clinical trials were conducted in Atlanta and Chicago to refine the adaptation of the intervention. HIV test counselors are or have been trained in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and now Detroit.

Couples/sexual partners are screened separately to determine their eligibility for the service and, if eligible, are given a short survey about their relationship. They then meet with a counselor, discuss risk factors and get tested together. When the results are ready in about fifteen (15) minutes, the counselor provides them to the couple together. APM is currently the only agency in Michigan with counselors trained to provide this service. The service officially launched at four APM HIV test sites, APM Main Office -Detroit, APM Pontiac Office, Affirmations Community Center and the Ruth Ellis Center, beginning Oct. 1and is by appointment only initially.

For more information on Testing Together or to schedule an appointment, contact Clarence Peeples at APM's Main Office at 313-446-9820 or the Michigan HIV/AIDS/ STD Hotline at 1-800-872-AIDS (2437).

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