Lead the Way, San Diego!
Team members of Lead the Way outside the storefront at Park Blvd. and
University Ave. They would take an HIV test. Would you?
In May 2011, the UC San Diego School of Medicine implemented the world’s first comprehensive HIV test-and-treat campaign with the launch of Lead the Way.
“This is the first time an HIV campaign has targeted everyone––high and low-risk individuals––based on the presumption that if everyone is tested for HIV, those found to be HIV positive can be treated, reducing the spread of the virus to others,” says Susan Little, MD, Professor of Medicine and lead researcher for Lead the Way.
More than HIV testing
Lead the Way is a multimedia campaign using community-based marketing, outreach, and social media to get community members in the 92103 and 92104 zip codes to voluntarily answer the question,“Would you or wouldn’t you take an HIV test?”
If they answer “yes,” they are offered a free, confidential HIV test. If they answer “no,” they are asked to fill out a short survey addressing why they chose not to take an HIV test.
“Volunteering to take the test or fill out the survey will help us understand why people will or will not take an HIV test,” says Little. “If we can understand the psychology, we can create more effective campaigns to promote testing.”
The Lead the Way storefront is an HIV testing center that provides residents of the 92103 and 92104 zip codes free, confidential HIV testing in a convenient, non-clinical setting.
Occupying a former Starbucks at the corner of Park Boulevard and University Avenue, the storefront has a comfortable, lounge feel with pop music, video monitors, free coffee, and an internet-accessible computer.
“Removing the stodgy, clinical feeling found in many HIV testing clinics was important for targeting populations that may not be comfortable with HIV testing,” said Joshua Romero, a public information officer at UC San Diego working on Lead the Way.
The storefront is the first part of a two-part approach to controlling HIV in the Hillcrest, North Park, and South Park communities of San Diego.
The second part of the campaign takes HIV testers door-to-door in both zip codes, offering the same free, confidential HIV test and survey given at the storefront. So far, the door-to-door testing has been well-received, with an apparent uptake in participation since its implementation.
“We hope San Diegans understand that this is an important opportunity to support the overall health of their community,” says Little. “The ultimate goal is that everyone in 92103 and 92104 gets tested and those who need treatment receive it, so we can significantly curb the spread of HIV.”