‘SexyHealth’ HIV-testing mobile unit hits the road in Dallas to drive down infection rates


A new mobile testing unit is being readied to help reduce the number of new HIV, syphilis and sexually transmitted infections in Dallas.

The Resource Center, an LGBTQ organization that dates back to 1983, touts the mobile testing service as a way to modernize sexual health care. It will launch in September, visiting locations in and around Dallas to offer free HIV, syphilis and STI testing.

“One of the big problems that we have in Texas is that people don’t get tested for HIV that often,” prevention services director JP Cano said.

The SexyHealth van is designed to mitigate that by making testing more accessible and HIV less stigmatized. Critical to the stigma-reducing goal is what MPowerment program director Jalenzski Brown calls the “vibe” of the van.

“The SexyHealth mobile unit is designed to be more fun and less clinical,” Brown said.

Lava Brown, marketing and communications coordinator at Resource Center, designed the graphics for the Sexy Health HIV-testing mobile unit developed by the center.
Lava Brown, marketing and communications coordinator at Resource Center, designed the graphics for the Sexy Health HIV-testing mobile unit developed by the center.(Brandon Wade / Special Contributor)

Testing in the SexyHealth van is intended to reduce disparities in health care. Brown said the goal is not to turn away anyone who needs help. The van can serve four to six clients per hour, depending on the service being provided.

The Black and Latinx communities in Dallas are disproportionately affected by HIV, Brown said.

Of the people living in Dallas with HIV, 42% are black, 26.1% are white and 25.2% are Hispanic/Latinx, according to AIDSVu, an online mapping tool that helps to visualize the impact of the HIV epidemic on U.S. communities.

By making HIV testing mobile, the SexyHealth van addresses one of the issues creating disparity — accessibility, Brown said.

“SexyHealth is HIV prevention on wheels,” Brown said. “We feel that this is a game changer in how we deliver safer sex and sexual health resources.”

The colorful van will link clients to treatment and care, and will offer safer-sex aids such as condoms, lubricants and PrEP, an HIV prevention medicine. The van may also offer masks and hand sanitizer while they are needed.

“Forty years into the HIV pandemic, Dallas is one of the hardest-hit metropolitan areas in the United States for new infections,” Resource Center CEO Cece Cox said.

Resource Center, Dallas' LGBTQ community center.
Resource Center, Dallas’ LGBTQ community center.(Brandon Wade / Special Contributor)

In Dallas County alone, 735 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2019, the most recent full-year data available, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Dallas County is one of 48 counties in the nation considered to have the highest HIV case count.

“With all of the resources that Dallas has, why are we still having that many positives? Some people say we don’t have the best public transportation system. In some areas you don’t even have transportation; take Mesquite, for example. There is no bus system out there,” Brown said.

“We really found it important to be able to go to these places that don’t have services available.”

The SexyHealth website will have information about the mobile unit’s routes. Site visitors can also recommend places for the van to go. The Resource Center is specifically seeking input from Black and Latinx individuals and others with high vulnerabilities for HIV.

“SexyHealth is a community tool; it’s not a Resource Center tool,” Brown said.

Resource Center and SexyHealth are working toward the federal and state goal of reducing new HIV infections by 90% by 2030.

“Testing is treatment. When someone knows their HIV status, they must seek medical care to live a long, healthy life,” Cox said.

SexyHealth is training two workers to handle HIV testing as well as PrEP prescribing and managing. Resource Center plans to hire a nurse to provide STI treatment and other clinical services as part of the van’s treatment options.

Timo Cervantez, mobile testing unit coordinator at Resource Center, is shown in an exam room inside the SexyHealth HIV testing mobile unit.
Timo Cervantez, mobile testing unit coordinator at Resource Center, is shown in an exam room inside the SexyHealth HIV testing mobile unit.(Brandon Wade / Special Contributor)

The mobile unit cost over $300,000 and was funded by a federal program created in 1992, with pharmaceutical manufacturers providing front-end discounts on certain drugs purchased by specific providers to pay for services for vulnerable patient populations. Resource Center also received funding for PrEP drugs and services.

The van will regularly visit some locations but also can be sent to areas with high infection rates and low availability of services, Brown said.

“We’re sexual creatures,” Brown said. “So we want people to have the greatest possible sexual experiences. We just want to be available to help people be more responsible.”



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