Doing It RVA is working to ensure that Richmond stays healthy in the sack by providing free HIV and STI testing.
Usually when someone says something is “free,” there’s some sort of stipulation or drawback — but Doing It RVA is the real deal when it comes to free HIV and STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) testing.
Doing It RVA is a coalition of nonprofit, government, and private sector partners with the same collaborative efforts and goal: to coordinate prevention and treatment of HIV and other STI’s in Richmond. Some of the many partners that make up the coalition are Richmond City Health District, Nationz Foundation, Health Brigade, Minority Health Consortium, and Planned Parenthood.
Wyatt Johnson, the social network strategies coordinator at Doing It RVA, said the coalition has been around since May 2017.
“A part of my role was working with the coalition to work in sync, and provide better health outcomes by organizing our efforts together,” Johnson said. “Last year around April, we started diving heavily into social media, and feeling out what our space should look like in Richmond to carve a niche for sexual health education and free testing.”
According to Johnson, last year was their first National HIV Testing Day event. Planned Parenthood attended and dispensed Narcan, a nasal spray that can help treat or prevent narcotic overdose.
National HIV Testing Day just passed on June 27, and Doing It RVA had an event on June 28 at multiple locations, conducting tests for several days along with the other nonprofits in the coalition. The organizations handed out free condoms and raffle prizes like Bowtie Cinema movie tickets.
Doing It RVA isn’t just a one-stop-shop, either — they offer a multitude of different services and resources among the many nonprofits within the coalition. Along with free Narcan, the Richmond City Health District also offered, and continues to offer, information on how to properly use Narcan.
“Our testing is a segue for a variety of other resources,” Johnson said. “Nationz has a food pantry and works heavily with the LGBT community. As a coalition, if I know Nationz offers these services or they are the closest option for somebody to get there, I can coordinate with Nationz to have them go over there. That’s the power of the coalition.”
Just because National HIV Testing Day has passed doesn’t mean you can’t still go get tested. Every Tuesday from 5 until 6:30 pm, the coalition offers free STI testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV at the Richmond City Health District building, located at 400 E. Cary St. All you need for the free testing is a photo ID.
Don’t be concerned about the hours listed on Google, either. There is a security guard inside the office that will buzz you inside (and sometimes it takes a few minutes to be buzzed in, so patience is key).
When you arrive inside the office, you’ll find a small window, just like you’re at your local doctor or dentist. Check your name in with the clerk, and you’ll be given a very brief form to fill out about sexual history as well as personal information. At this point, it’s important to know that if you haven’t seen the signs already, no cellphones are allowed — even if you’re in the lobby waiting for your number to be called.
The clinic is very cautious about verifying identity, information, and making sure that you, the patient, understand what is going on. Once you’re called, you’ll be seen by a clinic employee in a private room, where they verify most of the information you filled out. Your doctor will ask what testing you’d like to receive, inform you a bit about the methods of testing, and provide suggestions if needed.
Several of the tests can be done with a simple urinalysis, while others require a throat swab, which is sort of like brushing your teeth too far back on your tongue. Some, however, will require blood to be drawn.
Don’t fret. You’ll have some time to sit and muster up the courage before you proceed to the room, where you’ll be pricked with a needle and have blood drawn; all in only 2-3 minutes. The employees taking blood are very friendly and gentle, and will confirm your identity to ensure there is no mixup between test tubes.
When you’re all done, you’ll head back to the initial window where you started, and the clinic will provide you with an important piece of paper: one with both the date your results will be available, and a vital code that you must present to receive your results over the phone. If you wish to head back in person, that’s alright, too — you can swing back by on any other Tuesday to see them in person.
The brief wait and blood draw are a small price to pay to get ahead of potential health concerns that may help you and/or your partner. Feel free to pick up some free condoms if you need at the front desk, and enjoy the rest of your day knowing you’ve taken the next step in preventing and treating HIV and STI’s.
Photos: Doing It RVA/via Facebook