For the past year, a D.C.-based nonprofit organization called One Tent Health has been offering free “pop-up” HIV testing in neighborhoods across the city in a canvas tent that its mostly volunteer workers set up in parking lots of grocery and convenience stores.
The group’s CEO and co-founder, MacKenzie Copley, has said he and its other co-founder, David Schaffer, who serves as policy director, set out to provide HIV testing on weekends to enable a its large team of student volunteers to carry out the testing at a fraction of the cost of using a van or other specialized vehicle.
“We partner with local grocery and convenience stores, bring a 10 foot by 10 foot canvas tent directly into high risk areas of the city and, with over 300 undergraduate volunteers, provide screening in 15 minutes or less,” Copley told the Washington Blade.
“We’ll have over 600 volunteers within the next three weeks and we even just partnered with Grindr, who’s going to let all of its D.C. users know where we’ll be each weekend,” Copley said in a Sept. 10 email to the Blade. “To boot, everyone in our organization is 26 or younger,” he said.
Michael Kharfen, director of the D.C. HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration, known as HAHSTA, said his office provides One Tent Health with HIV test kits and helps train the group’s volunteers on how to perform the tests and counsel people who get tested.
On its website, One Tent Health says it also provides those who stop by its tent with information about the HIV prevention medication known as PrEP. It says it also has a partnership with Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s largest private health care organization that provides HIV-related treatment and services, including access to PrEP.
Kharfen said that similar to all HIV testing centers that use the rapid oral HIV test, those who test positive at One Tent Health are referred to another facility where they receive a confirmatory HIV blood test. Whitman-Walker is among the health centers that provides confirmatory tests.
“Having launched HIV screening in October 2017, One Tent Health hopes to provide HIV screening to at least 4,000 of Washington, D.C.’s most at-risk residents in 2018 by the District’s Metro stops, parks, grocery stores, homeless shelters, and community centers,” the group says on its website.