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Washington, DC has an HIV/AIDS epidemic with an infection rate as high as some parts of sub Saharan Africa.  If HIV is not detected and treated early, over time the disease progresses to full blown AIDS.  African American women in the nation’s capital are twenty five times more time likely to have HIV than white women.  Despite being at great risk for HIV/AIDS, there are few projects which which exclusively focus on preventing and reducing AIDS infection among African American women. 

To reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in Washington, DC, the DC Department of Health and the George Washington University teamed up to offer home HIV testing kits to individuals living in D.C., through the Prevention At Home (PAH) program. We wanted to understand whether women would participate in such a program and explore ways to strengthen it.



Design Research Lead​

Visual Design

Content Strategy


Some studies show that fear can prevent someone from taking an HIV test.  Yet, no studies examine such fears exclusively among African American women. We wanted to understand what fears women had around HIV testing and how they felt about different testing models.

  • What fears do African American  women have with learning they have HIV?

  • How do they feel about clinic HIV testing? 

  • ​How do they feel about home HIV testing?

  • Which method do they prefer and why?


To recruit participants, I engaged the Community of Hope clinic, which serves a primarily African American population in an underserved area of Washington. D.C. I sought those who did not engage in sex work in order to target a larger set of the population. 

  • Recruited low-income, African American women, 18 years and older, who do not engage in risky sexual behavior

  • Invited participanst who attended a "Pink Party" mammogram clinic health fair

  • Gave participants a $10 incentive​

I had a sister with HIV and I had a niece die of AIDS, and all the pain and stuff that they went through… I noticed that the family just separated away from them.


41 years old

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I did once go to a clinic and there wasn’t a lot of privacy… It was almost like a mill, you know, in and out. And I think that was the most uncomfortable when it came to HIV testing. They housed everything and everybody, like to get anything. Birth certificates and HIV and immunizations… so there wasn’t a lot of privacy going on. You know, you walked in the door and it’s like, ‘Oh, are you here for an STD clinic?’ It’s like announcing it to the world.

Betty Blue

26 years old

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I think the benefit is that I could deal with the results in my own space without talking to anyone about it.


18 years old

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I conducted synthesis at the conclusion of all the interviews.


The interviews were transcribed and later coded using Nvivo software. I used an initial code set based on the question topics, then adapted the code set to the data emerging in the interviews. 


I utilized thematic analysis to establish the common themes. 



  • Spectrum of Fear Visual

  • Insights & Findings Presentation


Visual Design: Veronica Vela

Visual Design: Veronica Vela


My study found that vulnerable, low income, African American women are not likely to enter a program that allows them to take an HIV test at home. The broader $23 million dollar study entitled, Prevention at Home, which sought to engage women in home testing failed to recruit individuals for a home HIV testing program. This validated my project's findings. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare cancelled funding for the $23 million dollar home HIV testing experiment. Human centered design research at the outset would have benefited the researchers who could have designed a more successful HIV testing intervention.

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