BY GABE HERMAN | Local nonprofit Alliance for Positive Change, which provides health services, has launched a campaign called “Alliance on the Move,” which brings a mobile van to different neighborhoods for free tests and services.
The bus primarily serves high-need areas in Manhattan, including the Lower East Side, Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village, Washington Heights as well as East and Central Harlem. Starting in August, it has come to the West Village every Thursday from 2 to 8 p.m., at Christopher and Weehawken Streets.
The nonprofit was founded in 1990 during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic to help New Yorkers find care and support. The organization remains focused on fighting HIV and AIDS, but has broadened its scope to include other health issues.
The van’s staff offers free counseling and testing for HIV and Hepatitis C.
People can also get screened for other sexually transmitted diseases, get free condoms and receive help in finding health insurance. Syringe exchange and naloxone training programs for people affected by the opioid crisis are also available, in partnership with the nonprofit’s Harm Reduction Center on the Lower East Side.
“The beauty of the van is it’s our strategy of taking harm reduction services out into the community and going where people are,” said Alliance Executive Director and CEO Sharen Duke. “We make it easy and accessible. It starts really with a one-to-one connection.”
Mobile Unit Coordinator Phillip Bermudez said the van’s outreach goals seem to be working and helping to spread the word about the services the nonprofit offers. It can be imposing for people to go into a building for services, he said, and the mobile unit bridges that gap. “Some don’t even know the services exist in our offices,” he said.
The Alliance for Positive Change serves over 6,000 people overall at its six office locations in Manhattan and the Bronx, including administering more than 1,200 free HIV tests. The Alliance reaches another 15,000 people through peer education and other community outreach programs.
Bermudez said the mobile van serves around 25 people in a day with various services and information, including giving about 4 HIV tests each day. The HIV test involves a finger prick which is similar to drawing blood for a diabetes test. Results are available in 20 minutes.
The West Village location is near the West Side Highway and was chosen because a lot of young people walk by on their way to Hudson River Park, according to Guy Williams, the Alliance’s associate director of prevention.
Williams said that the van helps the nonprofit make connections with people through being a consistent presence in the area. “As time goes on, they see the same people with the same message,” he noted, “and that makes them comfortable.”
More information about the Alliance for Positive Change and its mobile bus program can be found at alliance.nyc.