By Greg Lanza

World AIDS Day has a special significance. It was 31 years ago that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first case of a then rare condition that would later be known as HIV/AIDS.

At that time, the HIV virus had not been identified as the cause of this illness. Now 31 years later, we have learned a lot about HIV/AIDS. From the virus itself to the social and behavioral factors that put people at greatest risk for infection, we now know both how to treat and how to prevent this infection.

HIV testing and treatment work to keep those infected feeling well. Transmission can be prevented by consistently using condoms during sexual activity and avoidance of “dirty” needles and drug equipment. Due to widespread testing of pregnant women and treatment of those who are HIV infected, mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been virtually eliminated in the United States – another prevention success. However, prevention requires consistent, long term changes in behavior, something that is easier said than done.

Since 2000, the Boston Public Health Commission has allocated more than $19 million dollars to community based organizations, AIDS service organizations and other local programs to provide community based education and outreach to Boston residents. The BPHC HIV/AIDS Services Division, through federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act funding, received and allocated approximately $13.8 million this year alone for services to those who are already infected.

Most recently, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevent has decided to shift its prevention funding to areas of the country that have high and increasing rates of HIV. Unfortunately, this will shift resources away from states like Massachusetts, which have been successful in preventing new HIV cases. This change in policy will result in an expected 50 percent drop in HIV prevention funding for Massachusetts by 2015 and will leave even fewer prevention resources at the local level. Given this new funding reality, we individually and collectively are tasked with finding new and creative ways of getting the prevention message out to our communities. In a sense, we all need to become peer educators. Here are some tips for talking about testing.

For completely FREE & CONFIDENTIAL testing sites, please call Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050. 

You can also visit:


850 Harrison Ave. Boston

*Public Health Clinic-9th Floor

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 8:30-4:00pm

Wednesday, 8:30-6:30pm

*Project TRUST

Monday-Friday 9:00-4:00pm (asymptomatic only)


*1340 Boylston St. & South End 142 Berkley St. Boston

Monday and Tuesday 9:00-1:00pm

Wednesday 3:30-7:00pm

Thursday and Friday 1:00-4:00pm

Saturday 9:00-1:00pm

*Can call the hotline and make an appointment Monday-Friday 8:00am-8:00pm

*16 Haviland St. to open end of 2012

Greg Lanza is the senior program coordinator in our Bureau of Infectious Disease Education and Outreach Office.  Click here for a list of events marking World AIDS Day 2012