Delivering HIV Testing Messages to the Homeless Through Community Voice Mail

Content From: Steve Albertson, New Initiatives Director, Community Voice Mail Published: December 16, 20094 min read

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As mentioned in last week’s post, for this past World AIDS Day, Community Voice Mail (CVM) sent information to tens of thousands of “phoneless” clients about HIV testing resources. For those of you who aren’t familiar, CVM provides a free voice mail box to people in transition without access to a landline or mobile phone. CVM is dedicated to “turning phones into lifelines“. HIV.gov partnered with CVM for National HIV Testing Day 2009 and again for World AIDS Day 2010. We asked Steve Albertson, New Initiatives Director, to tell us a little more about how CVM’s national office and their affiliates commemorated the day. Here’s what he had to say:

At CVM, most of our work is focused on a “traditional” communication tool, the phone. Our motto is “turning phones into lifelines”. But we utilize new media to communicate with affiliates, recruit new ones, fundraise and increase awareness about our phonelessness in general, and our services in particular. You can find us on FacebookExit Disclaimer , Second LifeExit Disclaimer , and TwitterExit Disclaimer . Fifteen of our affiliates across the country have blogs catering to specific programs - our Seattle CVM just launched a blogExit Disclaimer , offering local information such as where holiday food banks are in the area, and where the H1N1 vaccine can be obtained in Seattle. We recently created a video that was posted to our YouTube channel where some of our clients told us about the best voicemail message they’ve received .

Even in the Internet age, having a phone number that works is an important part of staying connected to people and services that can keep you healthy. Many people who experience homelessness have HIV, and there are a lot of reasons why. Homeless people are more likely to be affected by mental health, drug or alcohol disorders; they lack easy access to health care; they live in impoverished communities with a high prevalence of HIV. These and a wide range of other issues often lead to risky behaviors and other conditions that increase the likelihood of exposure to HIV. It can also be hard to gain access to accurate information about HIV prevention, testing, and treatment for homeless people. It’s even harder if you don’t have a reliable phone number. For example, how hard would it be for your doctor to reach you with test results if you didn’t have a phone number?

World AIDS Day provided an opportunity to send a vital awarenessmessage, and provide information on testing to our target audience, athigh risk of HIV. Working with HIV.gov, we crafted voice messages thatwere delivered to our client voice mail boxes, and sent email messagesto our wired clients (59% tell us they use email). CVM affiliates inSeattleExit Disclaimer , ArizonaExit Disclaimer , ClevelandExit Disclaimer , DallasExit Disclaimer , Summit County, OHExit Disclaimer , Tulsa and Vancouver, WAExit Disclaimer posted World AIDS Day messages—many of whom would may not have received World AIDS Day messages otherwise.

Here’s an example of the messages that went out:

Tuesday, December 1st is World AIDS Day. This is an important day for us to remember the friends, family, and community members who we have lost to AIDS, and to honor those working to respond to HIV.

It is also an opportunity to remind ourselves that help and treatment are available for people with HIV – which is why it is so important to know if you have HIV. If you’ve never had an HIV test, or if your last test was a while ago, I encourage you to get an HIV test. HIV tests can be quick and there are many places that offer them for free.

To find an HIV testing center near you, call 1-800-232-4636. You can call any time and someone will answer your questions and help you find a free or inexpensive testing center. Please share this information with your friends and family. Here’s the phone number again: 1-800-232-4636.

Do you know anyone without a phone in need of voice mail box? Want to find a CVM affiliate near you? If there isn’t one in your community, want to help start one? We would love to hear from you .