Lisa Derrick, Todd Heywood and I appeared this morning on Nicole Sandler’s radio show to talk about the effort that grew out of our team’s discussion at LGBT Netroots Connect on Wednesday.
Additionally, national and regional LGBT organizations have issued statements in support of our efforts. Here’s a sample of what folks have said so far:
“Nearly 1 in 5 people with HIV do not know they are infected,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “On National HIV Testing Day we encourage everyone to help raise awareness by spreading the word with #testme and getting tested yourself.”
“I don’t remember the early AIDS epidemic — I grew up in Kentucky, isolated from the genocide that was ravaging our community throughout the 80s and 90s,” said Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL. “While many people think of that as ancient history, the epidemic is still killing our friends and neighbors at alarming rates. The #TestMe campaign is a great way for folks to play a simple but profound role in ending this epidemic once and for all — and I encourage everyone across the country to join in.”
“PFLAG National is proud to be a part of this broad coalition sharing the #TestMe National HIV Testing Day message on June 27. Organizationally, our history is inextricably tied to the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the activism surrounding it. Individually, PFLAGers are committed to protecting the health and well-being of their LGBT loved ones; encouraging HIV testing is a part of that commitment.” — PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby
Getting tested is the basic requirement to end this epidemic that has hurt our community in multiple ways, for far too long. To know my status is a responsibility not only to myself but also to my community. There’s no excuse. test me!
Derek Gerson, Founder
“We know that Ingham County has the highest rates of HIV in Michigan — outside of metro Detroit. We have the ability to stop the march of this virus, and end the epidemic today; but it starts with everyone getting tested and knowing their HIV status. Early diagnosis leads to better health outcomes and less transmission of the virus. This is wise public health policy, and important personal health decisions. I am getting tested because I want to show the community that it’s easy, it’s free and , if you choose, it can be anonymous.”
Chong-Anna Canfora, candidate for the Fourth Ward City Council of Lansing
Here is a copy of the press release that went out to media nationally this morning. Sorry to be late posting this for you all at PoliCyBear: I’ve been staffing the LGBT Interior Illusions Lounge in the Town Hall with hundreds of other exhibitors. Now that I have a downtime moment, I wanted you to know how much progress we’re making.
We’ve less than one week to get the word out about #TestMe on #June27. Are you going to #bringafriend to HIV testing? Have you identified who are your #tell10 friends you’ll invite to participate?
We really need everyone on board with this. Don’t be a stranger to yourself! Get tested. Know your current status.
LGBT, Ally Bloggers, Activists Launch Digital Initiative to Encourage HIV Testing June 27
SAN JOSE, Calif. – A group of LGBT and Ally bloggers, activists and community leaders announced Thursday June 20, 2013 that they were launching a new digital initiative to encourage HIV testing in the United States. The project is titled “Test Me,” and will encourage every American to be tested on June 27 and to share their experience on social media with the hashtag “TestMe.”
“AIDS can be over, in our lifetimes. But it’s only getting bigger now, and we need to change its trajectory: together and right now,” said Teddy Partridge who runs the PolicyBear.com website. “Be a part of this conversation over the next nine days, won’t you? Help us make this happen, please.”
“It is preposterous that for far too long our movement has neglected our responsibilities to lead by example and get tested,” said Gregory Varnum, development director at Equality Michigan and one of the testing initiative organizers. “The #TestMe initiative is a great example of a simple action LGBT and Ally leaders can take to show young people that we all need to know our status.”
Nationwide, the CDC estimates that 1.1 million Americans are infected with HIV, and 20 percent of those infected are unaware they harbor the virus.
The issue of particular concern in the LGBT and Ally community because of recently released prevalence studies and predictions which show the current cohort of 20-year-old men who have sex with men has an overall prevalence of 10 percent, and the African American sub-cohort of 20-year-old men who have sex with men at 20 percent prevalence. The prediction from the Office of National AIDS Policy is that at current transmission trends, in 30 years, half of all men who have sex with men will be infected with HIV, while 70 percent of all black men who have sex with men will be infected.
Additionally, a 2010 study found that one in five gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in 21 U.S. cities was infected with HIV. Of those that were infected, 44 percent were unaware they were living with HIV.
A National Institutes of Health funded study has found that a person who is infected with HIV, but unaware of their infection, is 3.5 times more likely to transmit that infection.
“As part of a generation raised well after the HIV/AIDS crisis, I know that it’s easy to get the false impression that the LGBT community is past that time in our history,” said Adam Polaski, a NYC based writer and activist. “I’d like to see more organizations and media outlets prioritizing stories about HIV/AIDS and getting the facts out – one small part of that, maybe the first step toward this renewed community consciousness, is the #testme plan as part of National HIV Testing Day.”
“HIV has never gone away, yet a whole generation–gay, bi and straight– is unaware of the consequences of infection,” Lisa Derrick, a blogger with Firedoglake and the Huffington Post. “By participating in June 27th #TestMe National HIV Testing Day everyone, regardless of age or identification, can take the first step to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. And in areas where HIV testing can carry a stigma, churches, labor unions and community groups getting tested can remove the stigma. Plus, let’s face it HIV can affect anyone–young, old, gay, straight or bi.”
“I’m 21,” says Eyad “Eddie” Alkurabi. “My generation should care about our health. Simple. Conversations about safer sex saves lives.”
“#TestMe is something everyone should ask their partner to do for each other. Knowledge is power,” says Seth Kaye, a Washington DC based activist.
The movement grew out of a conversation held during the Netroots Connect LGBT pre-convention. The event, now in its fifth year brings leading LGBT and Ally bloggers, journalists, activists and leaders of LGBT organizations together to discuss issues related to the community. In previous years, the event has given birth to other organizing movements like Scouts for Equality.
“The most important part of Netroots Nation Connect is the collaborations that develop at the event,” says Mike Rogers, director of the program as well as managing editor of RawStory.com. “The TestMe Hashtag project continues the year tradition of frontline leaders gathering and creating change throughout the country. I am particularly proud of this year’s collaboration.”