AIDS Services of Austin’s prevention team demonstrated a strong commitment in supporting the Austin Pride event last month, by providing a variety of prevention services to attendees, including contraceptives, testing, counseling, and general information.
Velda Clinton, Prevention Specialist at ASA commented after the event, “It was a wonderful year. People were much more engaged than in years past, and more active in picking-up the free supplies of condoms and lube being offered.” ASA distributed both male and female condom kits and dental dams. Organizers estimated that they distributed between 2,400 and 3,600 condom packets.
To counter the battle with Austin’s high summer heat index, ASA deployed cool water misting stations at the prevention booth site, which helped to attract Pride participants to the booth and provided an easier opportunity for ASA volunteers to engage with them.
Good interaction with the crowd was a common theme, as staff and volunteers met with an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 patrons. Organizers were encouraged by the outpouring of appreciation from the attendees. Velda also recalls, “Each person was amazingly grateful for ASA providing the service, and for doing it there at the Pride event specifically.” Thanks were expressed by those who took advantage of the testing service, as well as those who simply took advantage of the opportunity for dialogue about updates in the progress to fight the HIV epidemic today. Patrons also described ASA’s gesture as having felt more comfortable and less clinical than other environments. Some of the testing participants stated that they felt more comfortable discussing their fears and receiving advice in this less formal setting.
On-site HIV testing has been offered at Pride by the ASA Prevention staff for many years now. During this year’s event a total of 47 tests were administered. Testing was offered not only for HIV, but also for syphilis screening. Individuals taking advantage of the testing represented not only a broad section of the LGBTQ community, but also heterosexual attendees.
Jonathan Chavez (Testing and Linkage to Care Coordinator at ASA) expressed his personal thanks to all the event staff including the 15 additional volunteers from the community who all helped to make the event another Pride success!