Kensington: Get Up, Get Tested

Jeffrey Devita used the computers to check in with family at the Get Up Computer Lab.

More than ten years ago, Rudard (Rudy) Robinson decided that it was time to give something directly back to the community of Kensington. From years of homelessness, to time spent doing outreach for Congreso, Robinson now provides direct and necessary care at the doorstep of the Kensington community. As a man who has been there, he truly felt what it meant to have nothing, and understood the power of a helping hand in desperate times.

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The staff at the Get Up Computer Lab (Left to right): Monica Hillard, test counselor; Rudard Robinson, program director; Manuel Sanchez, test counselor; and Will Wright, program manager.

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The Get Up Computer Lab, located at 2815 Kensington Ave., is an organization offering a variety of services aimed at helping people receive the care and attention they require, including HIV testing, condoms, STD tests, SEPTA tokens, gift cards, internet access, cosmetics, education, and medical services, all for free.  The computer lab is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and anyone is welcome.

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Robinson did not only want to open a place where people could go to get help. He wanted to open one right in their own community, accessible by all, so they could get the help they needed right where they were.

“I wanted to get where the ruckus was,” he said. “I wanted to supply quality services, red carpet services, to people who were under-served.”

Although the main purpose of Get Up was to supply the neighborhood with free and safe HIV and STD testing, the idea was to keep the place discreet. To protect the confidentiality of those who enter, Get Up became a computer lab as well as a clinic. In the waiting room, HIV testing is not mentioned; instead people are scheduled for a “session” whether it be counseling or testing.

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When a person tests positive for HIV, he is encouraged, but not forced, to begin treatment the same day in hopes of suppressing the virus before it can develop into AIDS.

“We don’t pressure someone to get treatment the same day,” said Robinson, “but if a person is ready, we will enable them to do it that day.”

Free care is provided by the Mazzoni Center to those who otherwise would not have access to doctors.

Funding for many of the services offered by Get Up is provided by both the City of Philadelphia and the Center for Disease Control.  For the computer lab, however, there is no funding to date, and the computers are outdated and few.

Get Up is not currently wheelchair accessible, an obstacle which Robinson hopes to overcome soon.

– Text, images and video by Alisa Miller

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