Editor’s Note: For National HIV Testing Day, 5 people shared with us inspiring stories of living healthy – with HIV or by managing their HIV risk. Each of their journeys began with an HIV test. We hope these stories will encourage others to know their status and take control of their well being.
Greater Than AIDS Ambassador
“A lot of things happen…but with this once-a-day pill, I’m making sure that HIV transmission isn’t one of them. As a 24-year-old, gay, black man living in the south, the odds of becoming infected with HIV are against me. This is why getting tested regularly and utilizing PrEP is extremely important to me. Since I started taking PrEP, I feel less like a statistic and more like someone who’s in control of my life, and—more important—my sexual health. After all, PrEP is my prevention, not my pass. This little blue pill has made me much more confident when talking to my provider and being intimate with my partner. It has given me hope that the future of HIV prevention is headed in the right direction. Most important, PrEP has made me feel like a true advocate in the fight to end HIV/AIDS”
National HIV Testing Day is June 27th—this is a day that we create awareness around HIV and AIDS! What inspires me to promote HIV testing is that I was infected at the age of 16 in 1989–but I didn’t know it. I did a routine test in Job Corps in 1991 at the age of 18, and early detection most likely saved my life.
It is very important for people in my community–as well as people all over the USA and the world—to get tested and know their status. First, you can save your life by knowing your status and getting on treatment! is not a death sentence anymore, and we can live long, productive lives with HIV and grow old. Second, “treatment as prevention” means that, If you know your status, you are not only saving your life, but you are saving other human beings’ lives too. We know that if you are on HIV medication and become undetectable (which means that the virus is dormant), it’s almost impossible to pass the virus to another person—although I promote always using condoms to prevent other . I urge everyone to take an HIV test annually and to be proactive with your health. We also need to educate about sex in schools, because our youth are at risk. In 2014, nearly 10,000 youth between the ages of 13-24 got HIV in the USA alone. I need to be able to say the word “CONDOM” in schools. Peace and Light
HIV Advocate and CDC’s #DoingIt campaign Ambassador
“Although I have received success and fame by participating in the E! channel show, “I am Cait,” I have not lost sight of the most important issues in my life, which are advocating for and empowering the transgender community. I may be living a fabulous life, but like many of my gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender sisters and brothers, I have not had the easiest journey. The LGBT community continues to face stigma, discrimination, and an increased risk for health issues like HIV/AIDS, which disproportionately impacts our population. Through my work on CDC’s new HIV Testing campaign, Doing It, I am able to work alongside other leaders and community advocates to normalize HIV testing and show that everyone is Doing It. I am thankful I have the opportunity to utilize my voice and platform to reach LGBT people at a national level and illustrate the importance of HIV testing and staying healthy. According to the CDC, 1 in 8 people with HIV do not know they have it and currently around 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV. Testing is the only way that we can all know our status and reduce the spread of HIV. Doing It is easy! CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once. On June 27th , for National HIV/AIDS Testing Day, I urge everyone to take charge of their health and get tested for HIV!”
“HIV is still a scary thing. I think that the first step to fighting this epidemic is to start talking about it. This past spring, I went out on the road for what I called the “Life After Diagnosis Tour: Part 1,” touring 4 cities and sharing my story. I shared about how I felt when I was diagnosed with HIV, and how I’ve turned this diagnosis into a tool for change. I’m showing people that this disease won’t kill you, and that you can live a long, normal, healthy life. While on the road I realized that I, and all advocates in this fight, have our work cut out for us—outdated health education, the stigma around the disease, and abstinence-based sex education are all things working against us. For National HIV Testing Day, get tested, absolutely! But after that, start a conversation, fight the stigma around the disease, and let’s end this epidemic!”
Director of Prevention, The Women’s Collective, and Ambassador, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
“I am HIV+ and loved. I have seen the devastation and I know the cost of HIV, having lost numerous family members from complications to AIDS. Then I was diagnosed in 2003 and felt my world come crashing down. I found strength in faith, family and friends; I took care of myself and stayed healthy; And then I met Andy and I found unconditional love.
We have been married almost ten years and we are proud parents of three children. Andy and all the children are free of HIV. Now I give back by educating women, especially women of color, about stigma, access to care, and HIV prevention.
As an HIV+ black woman I know the stigma, challenges and the anxieties associated with being positive and finding love. I want to let women know it’s possible to find love and have family. We have ART (Anti Retrovial Therapy), we have PMCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) and now we have PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)… we have the tools to have a normal, healthy live, with love!”
More personal stories:
Dr. Richard Wolitski, Acting Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, HHS, learned of his diagnosis twenty-two years ago and has been living healthy.
Deondre Moore, AIDS.gov Black Voices blogger, was diagnosed two years ago and is using his voice to educate others about getting tested and living healthy.