Whittier Street Health Center Providing Free HIV Prevention Medications through Ready, Set, Prep Initiative

  • March 24, 2022

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Part of a National Effort to Reduce the number of HIV infections by 75% by 2025

Roxbury, MA (March 23, 2022) Whittier Street Health Center (WSHC) is offering free PrEP HIV-prevention medications to Boston residents living at risk for or living with HIV/AIDS.  The free medications are being made available through Ready Set Prep, a new initiative sponsored by the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to reduce the number of new HIV transmissions and end the HIV epidemic in the nation by 2025.

The HIV prevention drug is a pill taken once a day and is only available with a prescription.  When taken as prescribed, the PrEP medication has been shown to be safe and effective for lowering the risk of HIV infection and slowing the spread of AIDS.

Whittier’s approach is to identify and address the factors that may act as barriers to those WSHC serves in getting tested, accessing PrEP and enrolling in HIV care and treatment if needed. The Ready, Set Prep program will take place at the health center, which is located in the heart of Boston’s communities of color, and will conduct mobile outreach using a testing van, which will be used to perform outreach, testing for HIV infection and referral to the health center for needed services.

According to state data, predominately minority communities within the WSHC service area are disproportionately affected with HIV transmission. In 2018, there were 5,514 people living with HIV in Boston; 129 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in that year. In Massachusetts, the rate of people living with HIV per 100,000 persons is 1,026 compared to the state rate of 340 and national rate of 375.  The rate of newly diagnosed people is 24 per 100,000 compared to 11 for the state and 14 for the country.

Factors contributing to the high HIV rate in Boston include cultural barriers, unwillingness to access medical care due to mistrust in medical providers, as well as social stigma and shame attached to HIV/AIDS virus. Unemployment, legal issues, lack of insurance, access to transportation, food insecurity and homelessness and/or unstable housing are all common barriers impacting residents lives.

The HIV PrEP medications allow those at risk for HIV to take control of their health and reduce their risk. PrEP medications only protect against HIV, so condoms are still important to prevent other sexually transmitted infections. WSHC has staff dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and are available to answer questions and provide HIV testing to any one at risk of HIV exposure through sex or injection drug use.

Whittier’s Vice President of Programs and Social Services Christine Pajarillo, LICSW, said, “Informing the community about the availability and benefits of PrEP and engaging highest priority individuals are necessary first steps toward ending the HIV epidemic.”

Frederica M. Williams, Whittier’s President & CEO said,  “We will collaborate with local community organizations who connect with hard-to-reach minority populations for access to care and support, and will use proven prevention measures: HIV testing and linkage to care, medications (ART, nPEP and PrEP), access to condoms, prevention programs targeted at people with HIV and their partners and to people at high risk for HIV infection, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, access to sterile needles and integrated screening and treatment for STIs, viral hepatitis and Tuberculosis,” Ms Williams said.

“With grant funding support from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Whittier Street Health Center has implemented an Integrated HIV and Primary Care program that is a comprehensive and integrated system of high impact prevention and linkage to culturally appropriate treatment embedded in our Primary Care and Social Services operations,” Ms Williams said.


Whittier Street Health Center is an independently licensed community health care center with a mission to serve as a center of excellence that provides high quality, and accessible health care and social services that achieve health equity, social justice, and the economic well-being of our diverse patient populations. Whittier is accredited by The Joint Commission (TJC), certified by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a Patient-Centered Medical Home, and recognized by the NCQA for its Behavioral Health Integration. Through its locations in Roxbury and North Dorchester, School-Based Health Centers and its Mobile Health Van programs, Whittier serves nearly 30,000 patients and conducts 20,000 community outreach visits annually; its ethnically and racially diverse patient base is primarily made up of individuals from Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, the South End and Greater Boston.

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A note about Whittier and COVID-19

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in our area, we ask all clients and patients to call ahead before coming to any of our sites. We are working to take care of most clients/patients via phone/video encounter so we can meet your ongoing healthcare needs. This is for your safety and so we can provide the highest quality of care to you while following CDC guidance for COVID-19. Please call 617-427-1000 for any questions or concerns.

Whittier will provide COVID-19 testing from 10 am to 4 pm on Monday to Friday. Following CDC guidance, we recommend testing if you have a fever AND one of the following three symptoms: cough OR shortness of breath OR sore throat. Please bring your picture identification and your insurance card (if you have insurance).