Ren Morrill, prevention program coordinator for the Frannie Peabody Center at 30 Danforth St. in Portland, has been conducting free curbside HIV tests in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tests are conducted via oral swab or blood draw, and results are ready in 20 minutes. (Portland Phoenix/Elizabeth Clemente)
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Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Ren Morrill was used to doing his job in unconventional places, such as strangers’ closets and cars.

Morrill is the prevention program coordinator for the Frannie Peabody Center, which provides comprehensive HIV and AIDs services to people in southern Maine. One of its offerings is free community HIV testing, which it has had to remodel in the wake of COVID-19.

Morrill said he would conduct tests anywhere he was asked to, such as homeless shelters and recovery centers. The pandemic, however, put an abrupt end to mobile testing.

The Frannie Peabody Center also recently launched its PrEP 207 program, which is a resource line that Mainers can call to access HIV prevention and sexual health tools. (Portland Phoenix/Elizabeth Clemente)

Instead, the center now offers curbside testing in addition to rapid home tests, which can be mailed discreetly to anyone in Maine.

Curbside testing allows people to be tested for HIV from their own car. All clients have to do is call ahead and then notify the center that they have arrived at 30 Danforth St. in Portland. Then, Morrill will come out, conduct either an oral swab or a blood draw via a tray that attaches to the client’s car window, and go back to his office to process the test.

Results of the rapid antibody test are ready in 20 minutes, and Morrill calls clients to relay the outcomes.

The center also recently launched a sexual health and HIV resource line known as PrEP 207, which connects Mainers to a variety of affordable and local HIV services. 

Ultimately, Morrill said, there is “so much hope” today for people with HIV, such as medication that can make the virus undetectable and therefore non-transmissible, so people should not be afraid of knowing their status.

“Come in, get treated, know your status,” he said, “(and) get that peace of mind.”

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