One of the most exciting, proactive things to come out of Netroots Nations 13 is #TestMe, which encourages people to get tested for HIV on National HIV Testing Day, and to share photos and observations about the testing on various social media platforms using the #TestMe hashtag. Since 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all Americans ages 13-64 be tested at least annually. Those Americans at high risk, particularly gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men including transgender women, should be tested every three months. And out over the 1 million people infected with HIV in the US, the CDC estimates that 20% are unaware that they are HIV+.
Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont and founder of Democracy for America, endorses #TestMe, saying:
We stand at a unique time in the history of the HIV epidemic. We have the ability to stop the spread of this virus in its tracks, but the first step to doing that is getting people tested. Right now, 20 percent of people living with HIV are unaware of their infection and that makes them much more likely to transmit their infection, get sick or die. Sadly, the epidemic is exploding again in the men who have sex with men risk category, so I particularly encourage my friends who are gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, as well as transgender women, to get tested on June 27. Knowledge is power, but silence still equals death.
Zach Wahls, an author and advocate for the LGBT community endorses the #TestMe project, as does former Republican presidential candidate–and first openly gay presidential candidate–Fred Karger. Also on board, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National. Jody M. Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG said:
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.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said:
Nearly 1 in 5 people with HIV do not know they are infected. On National HIV Testing Day we encourage everyone to help raise awareness by spreading the word with #testme and getting tested yourself.
Derek Geirson, founder of Equalize Youth explains:
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!
Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL said:
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.
These advocates said it far better than I can. I’m getting tested, and I urge everyone else who is sexually active to get tested as well. Knowing your status–and getting tested before you switch partners–is vitally important. Your pre-sex date should be a trip to your local (anonymous) HIV testing center for a rapid test, followed by dinner.