Op-ed: “Looking” at HIV Testing in 2015

Looking at HIV testing in 2015From The Advocate online…

HBO’s Looking just aired an episode focusing in part on one character’s journey with HIV testing. The scene, filmed at one of AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Out of the Closet thrift stores and HIV testing sites in the Bay Area, serves as a timely reminder why HIV testing is an important act for people individually and for the gay community in particular. Indeed, HIV testing is important for all Americans, as over 50,000 people of all stripes acquire HIV annually — a number we have had difficulty bringing down.

On an individual basis, folks fall into a wide spectrum of motivation in seeking HIV testing services. Some seek HIV testing because they have had an unprotected moment, some have been told by someone they were with, or perhaps another, that they may be at risk … or had something happen that caused them concern. Others use testing services as an element of their sexual health routine. I would suggest that wherever folks fall in the spectrum of risk or motivation in testing, every time someone seeks knowledge about their health status, it has a beneficial effect for them and for our community.

Why? Because gay men in particular and the LGBT community in general are working to emerge from two fog banks. One is the fog of the bitter war against a disease the community has been fighting for over 30 years to arrest its ravages on our friends, family, and community. The other, the haze of prejudice and ignorance, clouds our ability to truly value ourselves and form real, trusting bonds with each other irrespective of our HIV status.

Every time we test, every time we find out our status and share that with those with whom we share our bodies (whatever the result), we remove a teaspoon of that fog. Each step taken to know and disclose our status is another action that will slow the spread of HIV in our community and affirm that there is nothing to hide from. Our decisions with whom to be intimate in whatever way we choose in 2015, need not be apologized for, nor the subject of shame.

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