Some Philadelphia middle school students wandered into an event where human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing was offered along with free pizza on Tuesday and some parents are outraged.
The “Pop-Up Teen Wellness Station” was meant for Lincoln High School students and provided general health information, HIV screening and free pizza coupons, according to an Instagram post Monday from Philadelphia Councilman Bobby Henon.
A parent of a 13-year-old student at Meehan Middle School said she was not asked for permission before her child was tested, WPVI reported Wednesday. The event was organized through Henon’s office.
It was approved by the Philadelphia Department of Health and services were provided by AHF Speak Out, a letter sent to Meehan students Wednesday provided by the School District of Philadelphia said. The event was not approved by the school district nor was it on school property.
“AHF Speak Out was providing health services, including HIV testing, to young people, including some Meehan students,” the letter said.
AHF, otherwise known as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is the “largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care” in the U.S., according to the organization’s website.
HIV is a disease that weakens the immune system and is most commonly spread through sexual activity or sharing needles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly 39,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with HIV in 2017.
“In the case of this particular event, the goal was to provide services to a segment of the population that is seeing an increase in HIV infection rates,” Henon said in a statement to TheDCNF. “Twenty-five percent of new HIV diagnoses in Philadelphia are among youth aged 13 to 24 years old. It is critical that we support and create opportunities for young people to take charge of their own health and wellness.”
Any person in the state of Pennsylvania can get tested for HIV as long as they provide consent, Garrow said.
“We, like all public health agencies, believe that everyone should know their HIV status, and will continue to make it easy for people to access these types of tests,” Garrow said. “It is regrettable that these students wandered into an HIV testing event targeted at high schoolers. This is absolutely not a case of bribing or enticing young children to submit to HIV testing in any type of coordinated fashion.”
AHF did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.
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