For gay and bisexual men in San Francisco, taking care of your sexual health is now faster and easier than ever.
This month Magnet, our gay men’s health center in the Castro, unveils a streamlined system for providing HIV and STD tests. It’s called the “Express Lane.” Customers now can either access full counseling for services, or they can chose a more expedited session that gets them in and out of Magnet quicker with their test results.
“Magnet is doubling the number of HIV and STD tests, to about 8,700 every year,” said Magnet Director Steve Gibson. “By dramatically expanding capacity, we are helping more gay and bisexual men improve their sexual health, which benefits the overall health of their partners and our community. The Express Lane makes it much easier for guys to get their regular tune-ups in a timely manner.”
Every Gay Man, Every Six Months
HIV testing is recommended for all HIV-negative gay and bisexual men in San Francisco every six months, regardless of risk. STD testing is recommended every three months. Magnet also provides screening and testing for syphilis as well as gonorrhea and Chlamydia.
“At Magnet, we are as committed as ever to serving our community, whether that’s through increased testing or by creating a space for men to connect,” said Mark Alstead, HIV Testing Services Manager “The Express Lane is a big shift in how we operate, and it comes at just the right time. Guys should have quick, easy, and free access to HIV and STD testing, and the Express Lane makes that experience available to many more customers.”
Magnet first opened its doors in 2003. Since then, thousands of men have come to the center to access the free testing and counseling services. Until now, guys have mostly heard about Magnet through word of mouth. With the launch of the Express Lane, Magnet is advertising its services to the community for the first time ever. Gibson says there’s a reason for that.
“For years we’ve had lines out the door, and at times we’ve had to turn people away because demand for our services exceeded our capacity,” said Gibson. “But our community has spoken, and we are now increasing capacity to meet that demand. So we’re advertising our services for the first time because we want all guys who live, work, or play in the Castro to know that we are now more able to meet the demand and we’re ready for them to visit us.”
Expanding Services in San Francisco
Every day in San Francisco, two more people are infected with HIV. Rates of new HIV infections are still on the rise for gay and bisexual men nationwide, the only group for which this is the case.
To reverse these trends, San Francisco AIDS Foundation offers more HIV tests via free local programs which provide direct services to clients. Beginning this month, we will offer testing at our main offices at 1035 Market Street and expand testing at our Syringe Access Services locations. Additionally, the foundation works in collaboration with Glide, St. James Infirmary, STOP AIDS Project, and AGUILAS to provide more tests at locations across San Francisco.
Meanwhile, The Stonewall Project has just opened a new office in the Castro, one block away from Magnet on 18th Street. This foundation program offers individual and group counseling sessions for guys who want help with alcohol and other drug use. Magnet works closely with Stonewall to refer clients for services and vice versa.
As San Francisco AIDS Foundation approaches its 30th year, we are intensifying our local prevention and care efforts. We want everyone in our community to have access to our services, which are designed to build healthier people from the inside out. This is our commitment.
Do you get tested regularly? If not, will the Express Lane make you more likely to get tested every six months? Have any advice for someone who's been putting off getting tested for too long?
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The best way to fight HIV is to know your status. A simple test can determine if you are infected with the virus.
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