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Residents can get tested for HIV as they wait for driver's license

By Faith Karimi, CNN
Results of the free oral test are available in about 20 minutes.
Results of the free oral test are available in about 20 minutes.
  • NEW: Test results are confidential, not seen by DMV, nonprofit says
  • Results of the free test will be available in 20 minutes
  • Those who test positive will get counseling and medical help

(CNN) -- Residents of the nation's capital can now get a driver's license and free HIV testing -- at the same time.

A Department of Motor Vehicles branch in southeast Washington is offering testing for the disease under a pilot program aimed at educating residents and reducing stigma.

"We realize that this is a nontraditional setting, but this program is about normalizing HIV and extending testing opportunities," said Angela Fulwood Wood, chief operations officer for nonprofit Family and Medical Counseling Service. "We chose the DMV because it offers a good cross-section of people."

The test will be confidential, just like other HIV tests offered elsewhere, Wood said. It will be conducted by professionals and will not be part of DMV records.

"The DMV only provides space for the program," she said. "It has nothing to do with the testing, it has nothing to do with the results."

The nonprofit chose this particular branch -- the Penn Branch -- because infection rates have gone up in the area, Wood said.

Penn Branch also has the most visitors and can accommodate confidential space to take the HIV test, local officials said.

Results of the free oral test are available in 20 minutes. Test takers will get $15 to go toward DMV costs, but Wood emphasizes that knowing one's status is the primary incentive.

"Our goal is to touch base with all the people who come into the DMV," Wood said. "We want to stress this project is about education as it is about testing."

Wood said those who opt not to find out their status at the DMV office will get information on other free sites to get tested.

Gilead Sciences, a California-based pharmaceutical company, provided a $250,000 grant to fund the program, according to Wood.

District officials have partnered with Family and Medical Counseling Service to provide the one-year pilot.

The nonprofit will offer testing and counseling, and help those who test positive get medical help through a provider of their choice, said Dr. Pierre Vigilance, director of the D.C. Department of Health.

More than 3 percent of adults and adolescents are living with HIV in the capital, among the highest rates in the nation, according to Vigilance. Nationally, the prevalence of the disease is 0.5 percent.

Officials were optimistic as the program kicked off Tuesday.

The first-day response was "excellent ... there has been a line waiting to get the HIV test," Vigilance said.

"Many people have to wait for some of the DMV services and the rapid HIV test takes only 20 minutes. It fits perfectly with the waiting times."