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Codman Square Health Center offers free testing, access to treatment at new X-Clinic

Special Advertorial Health Section

Sponsored by: Codman Square Health Center

I lost my best friend, Erick, at the young age of 19 to AIDS. My life has never been the same since then. I’m a young gay black man living in Dorchester, a neighborhood with high rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). I thought that maybe I should have been tested, but I couldn’t follow through. The reason was simple: at home, we didn’t talk about HIV because it just didn’t exist in my world. I was aware it was out there (maybe in some far away land like in sub-Saharan Africa or the South End), but I didn’t know what it looked like.

I was confused and unsure about where to get tested. What are the open hours for places that offer free testing? As a man of color who has been burdened by racism, poverty, discrimination, unemployment, trauma, and a pervasive mistrust of doctors, getting tested was the last thing on my mind.

Furthermore, I feared the stigma and isolation associated with HIV. I couldn’t bear the thought of people thinking less of me should they have learned of my getting tested. I feared the stigma and discrimination that could come with a positive diagnosis. Would they start to think that all I do is sleep around? Would it be divine punishment due to my “sin”? Would I have “deserved it”? What would life look like?

Real individuals with similar experiences to this fictionalized account often go ignored here in our community, but Codman Square Health Center is working to change that. Here in Boston, black gay men can be haunted by HIV/AIDS, because as a group they are at a much higher risk of getting HIV. According to a new report released in February from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), gay and bisexual Black men face a “strikingly high risk” of contracting HIV in their lifetime. The CDC explains that 1 in 2 African American MSM [men who sleep with men] and 1 in 4 Hispanic MSM will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

There is a pill, Truvada, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that can prevent HIV. Known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), PrEP functions similar to birth control, but instead for HIV. Research studies have shown PrEP to be highly effective and can reduce the risk of becoming infected by around 90 percent among people who take it properly and consistently.

Here at Codman Square Health Center, we have a team of providers and health care professionals who know all about PrEP and can help you determine if PrEP is right for you. If you walk in and you want PrEP, we’re going to help you figure out how to get it. Those who are interested can also call the Health Center’s PrEP Navigator to schedule an appointment.

Also at Codman Square Health Center, there is a new walk-in and STI clinic, called the X-Clinic, that offers free testing and connection to treatment options like PrEP. No matter your sexual orientation, gender or race, get tested. It’s amazing how your fear can open up the door for much needed conversations. One of the major obstacles to controlling HIV/AIDS is that a large number of people living with the virus do not know they are infected because they have not been tested. The main risk of contracting the virus comes from not knowing. If you are diagnosed with HIV, you can get treated and live a long and healthy life.

The best way to take control of your own sexual health is to be tested for HIV/STIs and know your status. Take charge of your sexual health. Stop by the X-Clinic at Codman Square Health Center today and get tested.

The X-Clinic is free, confidential and easy. No insurance or citizenship required. Staff are available who speak Spanish and Haitian Creole. The X-Clinic is open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:00pm to 7:00pm. Just walk in to the Health Center and ask for the X-Clinic. For more information on HIV services and treatment or to learn if PrEP is right for you, call 617-822-8350 or visit www.codman.org.