In Baltimore, one in 43 people over the age of 13 is infected with HIV, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Most of the time, those that are infected fail to or are unable to seek proper care. Youth ages 13-24 are the fastest growing group of new HIV infections. Over 50 percent of youth with HIV do not know they are infected.
In an effort to improve knowledge about this problem, the JACQUES Initiative - a program of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, recently held a three-day event during National HIV Testing Week to encourage people to behave safely and get tested for HIV. On June 25th to the 27th, the JACQUES Initiative, Greater Than AIDS, Walgreens Pharmacy, Lexington Pharmacy, HopeSprings, and the Gallery Church of Baltimore held the 7th Annual City Uprising Health Fair to continue Baltimore’s fight against HIV/AIDS.
“The Health Fair mobilizes our campus to get out into the community and leverage our resources,” says Alexandra Reitz, program coordinator at the JACQUES Initiative. “We are the bridge between community members and access to prevention services.” The JACQUES Initiative is a part of UM SOM’s Institute of Human Virology, and works to provide holistic care for individuals and communities impacted by HIV.
With more than 100 volunteers from University of Maryland Baltimore’s (UMB) various professional schools, the event provided services to 213 community members, about a quarter of whom were under the age of 24. Along with free HIV testing, there were many other activities as well. In addition to faculty and staff from the School of Medicine, volunteers from UMB’s Schools of Nursing, Dentistry, and Pharmacy provided oral health screenings, blood pressure screenings, legal and community resources, and nutrition advice. The first day included prizes, a raffle, and educational games to target youth.
HIV/AIDS infections are more likely to occur in areas with high rates of poverty and low rates of education — the same areas that are also less likely to receive help, according to a report by the Baltimore City Health Department. The JACQUES Initiative focuses on these areas, working with a wide range of residents. Its main goals are to reduce new HIV infections, increase access to care, and reduce HIV-related disparities.
“We believe that to change a city, we must engage the city,” said Christopher Williams, Director of Case Management and Mental Health and Interim Executive Director at the JACQUES Initiative. “By channeling partnerships with our UMB campus leaders, we are able to mobilize the wealth of resources to provide direct services to the community and address the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy as a city.”
The mission of the JACQUES Initiative program is to provide a holistic care delivery model that ensures long-term treatment success for individuals and communities impacted by HIV. To learn more about the JACQUES Initiative and our ongoing volunteer opportunities, please visit www.jacques.ihv.org
Photo Credits: Tania Chatterjee