Programming Connection

Anonymous HIV Testing Program  

Options Clinic, London InterCommunity Health Centre
London, Ontario
2014

Quick Facts

Goal (immediate)

To lower barriers to HIV prevention, testing and counselling services for populations at higher risk for HIV infection

Goal (ultimate)

To provide HIV prevention, testing and counselling services to prevent HIV infections and reduce the number of people who are not aware of their HIV status

Participants

People at increased risk for HIV infection, including Aboriginal people, gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who use injection drugs and youth

Setting

Outreach

Required Resources
  1. Coordinator. Provides administrative support for the program, maintains connections with outreach sites and provides HIV prevention, testing and counselling services.
  2. HIV counsellor. Provides HIV prevention, testing and counselling services.
  3. Strong network of collaborators and partners in the community to host outreach testing clinics at bathhouses, youth centres, Aboriginal health centres and other community-based organizations.
Scope and Duration

1,000 tests annually, ongoing

Date Started

1993

Region

London, Ontario

Recruitment

Drop-in, appointment

Challenges
  1. Building trust among Aboriginal service providers. Building a strong partnership with service providers whose main clients are Aboriginal people was initially a challenge for Options Clinic. Options Clinic partnered with the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy to overcome this barrier. In partnering with Options Clinic, the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy vouched for the ability of Options Clinic to offer culturally appropriate HIV services to Aboriginal people.
  2. Changing contacts at the university. The vice-president of student services at Western University is the primary contact for Options Clinic at the university. This elected person changes yearly, which means that Options Clinic must build a relationship with a new student representative each year. This has resulted in inconsistent testing numbers at the university, since some vice-presidents may not see the HIV testing clinic as a priority and will not devote as much time to promoting it as others.
Evaluation

The Options Clinic outreach counsellors keep a record of the number of clients tested and the number of positive test results and compile demographic information for all clients who are tested. In 2013, 945 people sought testing from Options Clinic, 296 of those on outreach. In a typical year, about two individuals with HIV are diagnosed through outreach clinics. This is consistent with the positivity rate (0.7 percent) of many anonymous clinics in Ontario.

Options Clinic also measures its success through the relationships it builds with clients and other community-based organizations. Providing anonymous HIV testing on an outreach basis increases the visibility of Options Clinic in the community. This visibility in a variety of venues has not only increased access to HIV testing in the community but has also increased the number of tests performed among certain populations at Options Clinic’s fixed site.

The most noticeable effect of the increased visibility of Options Clinic has been the increased number of Aboriginal people seeking testing at Options Clinic. In 2010, about four percent of people tested at the clinic self-identified as Aboriginal. In 2013, that number jumped to eight percent. Counsellors credit this to their continuous presence and engagement with organizations and clinics serving the Aboriginal community.

A similar trend has been observed among people who use injection drugs. Between 2011 and 2013, the percentage of people who use injection drugs accessing Options Clinic’s fixed site rose from seven percent to 12 percent.

The visibility of Options Clinic at Western University, where many of the outreach clinic’s clients are of African or Caribbean descent, has increased the number of people from those communities who are accessing testing at Options Clinic’s fixed site even though the clinic does not do specific outreach to these communities. The program coordinator attributes the increase in the number of students from these communities visiting the fixed site to word of mouth.