Monday, June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. Each year, HIV/AIDS organizations all over this country, take this opportunity to get people to test for HIV and to also educate people about HIV/AIDS. National HIV Testing Day is a prime opportunity to have conversations about sex and sexuality; which I think is the greatest test, the test of our courage as persons and as a people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and all of their partners and contractors will be aggressively promoting all of the many different HIV campaigns launched by the CDC. Campaigns such as, Doing It, We Can Stop HIV One Conversation at a Time, Let’s Stop HIV Together, Start Talking. Stop HIV, Reasons, Take Charge. Take the Test, Testing Makes Us Stronger, HIV Treatment Works, HIV Screening, Standard Care, Testing and Linking Minority Patients to Care, just to name a few.
As wonderful as all of these campaigns are, our greatest test will be the test of our integrity and our responsibility to ourselves, our society and to our world. Why do I say this? Because about 60% of all youth with HIV do not know they are infected and they are not getting treated, and can and will unknowingly pass the virus on to others; that’s a test of our integrity. Knowing that you are having sex with multiple partners and not using a condom, male or female and not being transparent with your partner, is also a test of our integrity. When there are about 50,000 people getting infected with HIV each year, and 1 in 4 is 13 to 24 years old; that’s a test of our love and support for our young people. When 1 in 4 people living with HIV in the United States are women and the newest HIV diagnoses in women are attributed to heterosexual sex, that’s a test of integrity.
Yes, we all need to get tested and know our HIV status, and equally as important, we all need to be up front and honest about who and how we’re having sex. The black community needs to get tested because we can’t put our faith and future in wonder drugs; which many of us can’t afford in the first place. Getting tested is also important because it’s on us to no longer allow others outside of our community to stigmatize our community as being homophobic, based on their timeline and tenure in addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Many say that we were late coming to the party, we were not late to the party in addressing HIV/AIDS in our community; hell, we weren’t invited to the party, I guess our invitation got lost in the mail! Here’s the test that I propose. Let’s throw our own party by calling on all African American social, civic and faith institutions all over this country to partner with their local health departments and get tested for HIV/AIDS and other STDs. Let’s test our humanity and love for our people by having conversations about sex and sexuality with our loved ones and our friends. Here’s our real test; can you embrace that family member or friend that’s gay, bisexual or transgender, just to see if they are okay? And let’s not pretend that we don’t have a family member or friend that’s at greatest risk for HIV infection; it might even be you. So, let’s test our humanity and love for one another as brothers and sisters on this National HIV Testing Day. And this will be our initiative towards building a social movement that is concerned as a whole with the health, wholeness, and well-being of the Black community. I’m Doing It, how about you?