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."