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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Health Education Student Awarded OPR Research Fellowship

  Christel Hyden, Program in Health Education, HIV Testing Locations in New York City: An Adolescent Consumer Level Evaluation




Christel Hyden, recently awarded the 2009-2010 OPR Research Fellowship from the Teachers College Office of Policy and Research shares her research with us.

It was through my work at the Harlem Health Promotion Center-- a CDC funded prevention research site affiliated with the Mailman School ofPublic Health – that I came across a study run several years ago in Los Angelesin which researchers contacted HIV testing locations and found that half thetesting locations couldn’t be reached by phone, meaning the average consumerhad a 50/50 chance of connecting with this essential service on their firsttry.

This type of study immediately intrigued me since nothing ofits kind had ever been conducted in New York City. It also seemed like aninteresting project because it was of a scale that could be completed withlimited resources. However, I wanted to look at more detailed information abouteach organization, specifically whether the organizations provide services thatwould appeal to adolescents who may be interested in getting tested. AdolescentHIV/AIDS has increased over the past decade but fewer than 25% of adolescentshave been HIV tested, and therefore I felt there was a need to understandtesting locations in terms of characteristics that are known to appeal toadolescents: free, confidential rapid tests, offered at a convenient settingwith nontraditional hours.

Using the NYS directory of HIV testing sites as my sample, Iwrote a study protocol that was subsequently approved by the Columbia IRB.  Presenting as adolescents, trained callers usea semi-structured interview to establish whether the testing site can bereached by telephone and meets the criteria most cited by adolescents asinfluential on testing behaviors. 

We have since pilot tested the study with 50 of the 187testing sites and found that 40% were not successfully contacted by phone ordid not offer HIV testing. Among the remainder, most offer free rapid testing,although 75% only during traditional business hours. Agency representativeswere typically well rated, but often required prompting for information.  Further, representatives at the agencies thathad the most adolescent friendly services (e.g. the NYC Department of Health)were rated the lowest in terms of service and communication skills, suggestingthat while they may offer superior access to testing they’re not doing a verygood job making that clear to consumers.

I plan to defend this dissertation proposal in the earlyspring of 2009, submit to the TC IRB, and have data collection on the remainingagencies completed by the end of summer 2009.