National HIV Testing Day (June 27) is coming up again. As part of the work i do at "a large AIDS Service Organization in Atlanta," i am coordinating some of the efforts for this annual observance. In addition, i am working on a state-wide HIV prevention campaign targeting African American Men who have Sex with Men that is launching this week. And Atlanta's Gay Pride celebration is this weekend, so i am expected to participate in that at some level as well.
Now you, may think my frustration is arising from the multitude of tasks that i'm expected to complete this week. No. I am frustrated because i'm not at all sure that any of this is going to make a difference.
I've been working in the field of HIV Prevention for a few years now. I've learned a lot and changed a lot of my attitudes and expectations about why and how gay men negotiate sex, desire, relationships, and our own risks around HIV. I've heard many, many stories from my brothas about how and why they didn't stop themselves before contracting HIV. I've heard similar stories from men who can't understand why they are still HIV-negative, considering the risks they've taken. But i don't know that anything i've done has affected any of them as much as they've affected me.
I know that HIV testing helps people manage their health. (How can you protect your status if you don't know it?) I guess i just wonder if these large-scale events really reach those folks who are most at risk. In my experience, the majority of people who come out in public to get tested are those who don't have real concerns about their risk anyway. (There are exceptions, of course, but they tend to prove the rule.) So why do we do it? What is the real benefit? Well, some people really do get some information that can help them move forward in a healthier way. Some people get corrected information that helps disabuse them of the myths and mis-information they had been holding onto. Some people find out more about agencies and organizations working to fight the spread of the disease and decide to get involved as volunteers. And some people really do find out their HIV status for the first time.
So i will march on, continue to make plans, reach out to people, publicize the events, and hope that one of the people i talk to this weekend -- especially one of my brothas -- really hears something that will be life-changing. And maybe i will learn something too.
Hope, they say, springs eternal.
***FREE HIV TESTING***
Friday, June 25, 2004
7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Mall West End
Saturday, June 26, 2004
10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Main Street Barber Shop
This event has been CANCELED
Saturday, June 26, 2004
5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Holiday Inn Select, Atlanta Capitol Plaza
(includes screening and discussion of film "One Week")
For more information on these and other events,
call the Georgia AIDS & STD InfoLine at