SOURCE: MAC AIDS Fund

MAC AIDS Fund

October 17, 2013 11:56 ET

UPDATE: First Couples HIV Prevention Strategy for Gay Men to Roll Out in Major Cities Throughout the United States

Emory University's "Testing Together" Program to Expand Nationwide by Yearend, Made Possible Through Seed Funding From the M.A.C AIDS Fund; Program Aims to Reduce High Rate of New HIV Infections Among Gay Men in Relationships, a Formerly Overlooked Group

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Oct 17, 2013) - Today, Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health announced that it is transitioning management of a valuable, new HIV training program to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Brought to life with funding from the M.A.C AIDS Fund and modeled after a successful HIV testing program in Africa, the training prepares local HIV/AIDS organizations and health departments to deliver the first-ever couples HIV testing and counseling service in the United States for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. The new service -- called "Testing Together" -- enables male couples to learn their HIV status together and develop a customized HIV prevention and care strategy at no charge in most locations. After the transition, CDC will roll out the training -- which has been successfully piloted in several major U.S. cities -- to organizations across the country.

"Most HIV prevention programs focus on individuals or groups of gay men when, in fact, most new HIV infections come from main partners in a relationship. Our 'Testing Together' program is the first HIV testing service geared specifically toward meeting the needs of male couples," said Patrick Sullivan, DVM, PhD and Professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health. "We're happy that our collaboration with CDC is bringing this program to more HIV organizations in major cities throughout the nation. Bringing this service to scale for male couples was made possible by the generous support of the M.A.C AIDS Fund."

In 2009, Sullivan and his colleagues at CDC conducted research that estimated one-to two-thirds of new HIV infections came from main partners among gay couples. Follow-up research, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and conducted by Emory University, found that a significant number of men in longer-term relationships were unaware of their partner's HIV status. In fact, many gay men in relationships believed that they were less at risk for HIV and were therefore less likely to have been recently tested for HIV. NIH-supported research showed that providing HIV testing for male couples was promising, but bringing this new service to men beyond the initial study in Atlanta would be a challenge.

To encourage awareness and combat a growing rate of new HIV infections among gay men in the United States, Emory engaged the M.A.C AIDS Fund in March 2011 to provide startup funding to pilot the innovative "Testing Together" program in Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, San Diego and Seattle. Designed to prevent new infections and improve linkage to care, the program trains HIV community-support organizations in testing and counseling skills specifically for gay couples, including ways to cope with an HIV-positive status, maintain safer behaviors between partners and help navigate treatment when one or both partners is found to be HIV-positive.

"Even with the game changing strides made in AIDS treatment as a means of preventing HIV, we cannot end the epidemic without equally powerful breakthroughs in HIV behavioral prevention for people heavily affected by HIV like gay and bisexual men," said Nancy Mahon, global executive director of the M.A.C AIDS Fund. "For this reason, the M.A.C AIDS Fund will continue to invest in innovative and effective initiatives like Emory's 'Testing Together' program, and we are so gratified that the CDC will be bringing this program to scale to reach more people nationwide."

Following Emory's successful pilot program, CDC became interested in taking over the "Testing Together" program and expanding training for additional, major cities with high HIV prevalence in the United States. Emory University remains engaged in supporting training and technical assistance through its collaboration with CDC. To date, more than 300 HIV counselors have been trained at 73 testing sites in 21 cities, and more than 450 gay couples have learned their HIV status together. As a result, more than 8 percent of men tested were HIV-positive with at least 10 percent in previously undiagnosed discordant relationships where one partner is HIV positive and the other is not. 

As a result of the multi-sectoral collaboration between Emory, M.A.C AIDS Fund and CDC, "Testing Together" will be rolling out in major cities in the U.S. to bring the first HIV testing service to male couples. In preparation for the transition, CDC has initiated partnerships with more than 18 key cities to date and will continue to build capacity at health departments and with the nation's public health workforce to implement this training. In the future, "Testing Together" will be adapted for use with other types of couples as well. To learn more, visit the new Couples HIV Testing and Counseling section on the CDC's Effective Interventions website or find a testing and counseling center offering couples testing at TestingTogether.org

ABOUT TESTING TOGETHER
"Testing Together" is the first-ever HIV testing and counseling service for male couples in the United States. Designed to prevent new infections and improve linkage to care, the program was developed by Patrick Sullivan, DVM, PhD and Professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, and Rob Stephenson, MSc, PhD, Associate Professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, and funded by the M.A.C AIDS Fund. Testing Together was adapted from CDC's Couples HIV Testing and Counseling training curriculum, which is used to train HIV testing providers internationally, primarily those who work with heterosexual couples. CDC is taking over Emory University's "Testing Together" program and will be expanding it in major cities nationwide for couples of all types with ongoing support from Emory and the M.A.C AIDS Fund. For more information, please visit TestingTogether.org or EffectiveInterventions.org.

ABOUT EMORY UNIVERSITY'S ROLLINS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH
The Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University has 960 master's degree students and 147 PhD students who choose from degree options in behavioral sciences and health education, biostatistics and bioinformatics, epidemiology, environmental health, health policy and management, and global health. A leader in interdisciplinary studies, the school offers dual-degree programs with medicine, nursing, physical therapy, physician assistant, business, theology, law, and the graduate school. A distance-based master's program, the Career MPH, allows professionals to pursue a degree while they are employed. The school is ranked sixth among peer institutions by U.S. News & World Report. http://www.sph.emory.edu

ABOUT THE M.A.C AIDS FUND
The M.A.C AIDS Fund, the heart and soul of M.A.C Cosmetics, was established in 1994 to support men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS globally. MAF is a pioneer in HIV/AIDS funding, providing financial support to organizations working with underserved regions and populations. Recently recognized by Funders Concerned About AIDS as the top corporate giver in the arena and the number one philanthropic funder of domestic U.S. HIV/AIDS work, MAF is committed to addressing the link between poverty and HIV/AIDS by supporting diverse organizations around the world that provide a wide range of services to people living with HIV/AIDS. To date, MAF has raised more than $300 million (U.S.) exclusively through the sale of M.A.C's VIVA GLAM Lipstick and Lipglass donating 100 percent of the sale price to fight HIV/AIDS. For more information, visit www.macaidsfund.org

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