National HIV Testing Day was last Saturday. All month we've encouraged people to listen to real stories from real people about what taking an HIV test means to them. We used a widget to show short videos of both HIV+ and HIV- people sharing their stories about getting tested. And as we moved towards the end of this 4-week National HIV Testing Day blog series, we also listened to the President of the United States talking about his experience taking an HIV test.
I wanted to add to this conversation and share my experience as a gay man getting an HIV test last week.
I went to the Whitman Walker Clinic in Washington, DC and—with their permission—filmed my HIV test (I'll be posting the video later this week See the video I took right after getting an HIV test). The test was a quick, painless finger stick and 20 minutes of waiting for my test result. But even as someone who was already confident about knowing my HIV status and gets tested as part of my routine health check-ups, I felt anxious going into the test. While the waiting period was brief, each minute was heightened as I eagerly waited to get my results. But hearing the results meant to me that I can take control of my health. And it reinforced for me that what I am doing to protect myself is working.
I know that stigma is still an issue—even for those of us who address HIV and AIDS every day. In fact, when I told other people that I would be getting an HIV test and filming it, a long pause in the conversation almost always followed.
The videos, this blog, and our HIV story initiative, "I Know. I Took the Test." is an attempt to address that stigma – to provide stories of real people like you and me. Peer-to-peer sharing is a cornerstone of new media. Through this blog, we can continue to share our experiences and respond to HIV through new media channels.
I hope that our widgets, videos and blog this past National HIV Testing Day have inspired you to take an HIV test– not just on this past Saturday, but year-round.
Looking for your local HIV testing center? Send a text message with your ZIP code to “KNOWIT” (566948) or visit www.hivtest.org