Did you know that striking up a conversation about HIV or drug use is still difficult for most people? Why? Unfortunately, stigma continues to keep these conversations silent. Fortunately, our Harm Reduction Team, Health Educators for HIV Prevention, Larry Smith, and Harm Reduction, Mary Tucker, have been working diligently throughout Northern Kentucky, bringing awareness through education and testing to help decrease the spread of HIV. In the process, their work helps derail stigma and bring us closer to ending the epidemic.
The team meets clients where they are by being flexible, working early morning and late evening hours. This is crucial – especially when working with people who may inject drugs, who may also be nomadic. Larry and Mary plan, implement and organize events to connect with people who inject drugs and other groups that are at higher risk for HIV, including men who have sex with men and people who are transgender.
An objective this fiscal year is to provide education, training and resources to at least 1,000 Northern Kentucky residents on naloxone administration, mental health, HIV, hepatitis C and addiction. To date, they have distributed 457 naloxone kits and conducted 18 naloxone trainings.
The Harm Reduction team has also organized resource fairs this year named “New Year New You” and “Fall into Health” in Kenton and Boone counties. These events included 20 vendors offering support services for low-income families, including:
- HIV/hepatitis C screenings
- Naloxone trainings
- Food/clothing pantry
- Other wrap-around services
As of November 30, the team has administered 122 HIV tests via 10 monthly HIV testing and counseling sites in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties, including at least one-weekend testing event monthly, often coinciding with nationally-recognized HIV testing/awareness days, such as:
- National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
- National Gay Men’s HIV Awareness and Testing Day
- National HIV Testing Day
- National Women and Girls HIV Awareness and Testing Day
- World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day, held annually on December 1, was created to show support for people living with HIV, and also commemorates those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. It helps us stand in solidarity in the global fight against HIV. The NKY Health team hosted an event on Sunday, December 1st at the Kenton County Public Library, Covington Branch from 1:30-4:00, which included activities, education about HIV/AIDS and testing.
Written By: The Harm Reduction Team
Marsha Bach, Programs Manager
Larry Smith, Health Educator
Mary Tucker, Health Educator