Community

A nonprofit wants to pay you to help prevent the spread of HIV.

Volunteers of America launched the Friends Inspiring Testing (FIT) campaign Thursday, calling it as the first of its kind in Kentucky.

VOA will use digital marketing to spread awareness while offering free, confidential HIV tests. People will be paid for getting tested and for referring someone else who also gets tested.

VOA program manager Marshall Kellner said the campaign’s goal is to spread awareness about HIV. That requires candid discussions on sex, but Kellner said promoting sexual health will benefit Louisville.

Volunteers of America

Volunteers of America’s FIT campaign launched Thursday.

“We all have an HIV status. The question is, do you know yours and do your friends know theirs?” he said. “We can really make a difference. We can make Louisville a community free of HIV transmissions.”

HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases affect many communities in Louisville, but they plague young, black females the most, data show.

According to the city’s health equity report, from 2011 to 2015, black girls between 10 and 19 years of age had the highest rates of STDs. In 2015 alone, black girls were diagnosed at rates five times higher than white girls and 26 times higher than white boys.

Multiple factors lead to STDs, but the report said higher income has been linked to lower rates of STDs due to greater access to prevention methods.

The FIT campaign plans to focus on similar at-risk communities, citing high HIV rates for homosexual men, but will offer testing to everyone.

Jennifer Hancock, president and CEO for Volunteers of America Mid-States, said the organization is excited about the campaign.

“We want VOA FIT to be the spark that generates awareness about testing and encourages friends to connect with friends to promote knowing your status and being healthy,” Hancock said.

Nearly $70,000 of VOA’s budget will fund the campaign, using money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than $4,000 is allocated to pay for testing incentives, and the budget could grow over time.

The campaign will be active in Southern Indiana, too, and currently has no end-date.

“This is something that could last for decades, or until we find the cure for HIV,” Kellner said. “Our goal is to not have a job. I want for prevention to be the key.”

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.