In May 2020, Washington AIDS Partnership and N Street Village hosted a virtual community engagement session with 10 women from a residential recovery program run by N Street Village. Participants were mostly Black women between 40 and 65 with unknown HIV status. This event was initially intended to occur in person with a larger group of women at the day center; however, those services were suspended due to COVID-19 precautions.
Participants expressed that HIV was a concern for them, particularly the stigma that keeps people from getting tested and into care once they receive a diagnosis. Participants felt that DC Health programming should address the stigma associated with getting tested for HIV and disclosing HIV status to others. Participants also wanted it to be easier to find places to get tested. They suggested creating more testing locations and offering incentives, such as gift cards, to get tested.
Housing, employment, and access to mental health services were also noted as concerns. Participants were emphatic about the need for more resources and support for the community in these areas because these issues are all interconnected.
The participants were interested in resources with which they could continue to educate themselves on topics such as HIV and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). They suggested that educational materials come in the form of literature and pamphlets and that they be placed in buildings where people go for services, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) office. They said being prepared with information would enable them to better advocate for themselves and their families.