Friday, June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. Across the country thousands will “Take the Test, Take Control” of their lives. In Eagle County free testing will be available Friday, June 27 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards and Saturday, June 28 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Vail Valley Medical Center. Eagle County’s Red Ribbon Project will be coordinating the testing days which will include HIV testing and confidential counseling regarding prevention.
Recently there has been increased discussion regarding HIV, the associated stigma, and judgments about people affected by HIV with Los Angeles Clippers former owner Donald Sterling’s comments regarding famed basketball legend Magic Johnson’s positive HIV status. Donald Sterling stated that Johnson should be “ashamed of himself” for having HIV and suggested he was a terrible role model for children.
Contrary to Donald Sterling’s remarks, Magic Johnson has been living with HIV for more than 23 years, both modeling a full life, one filled with generosity, business acumen, advocacy, and leadership; and the advances in medical care for those with HIV. HIV testing increased in major cities by 60 percent in 1991 after Magic revealed his status. Let Donald Sterling’s remarks and Magic Johnson’s remarkableness inspire us to rebel against the stigma surrounding HIV and increase by 60 percent once again the level of HIV testing.
The future holds much promise, yet nearly 200,000 HIV infected persons do not know their status and delays in identification increase the spread of HIV and decrease the ability to effectively treat the virus. Indeed, 16,000 Americans with AIDS die every year.
By taking the HIV test on National HIV Testing Day at the end of June you can be part of the movement to show Donald Sterling how wrong he is. There is no shame in getting tested. HIV is a virus that can attack anyone and we are all very much at risk. Viruses do not make moral judgments and choose their victims. Getting tested is a way to show you care about yourself and your partner. Getting tested, encouraging others to get tested, supporting those who test positive, and practicing prevention are great ways to be a role model.
Testing is easy. Testing through the Red Ribbon Project is free. Results come quickly. Counselors can answer your questions and help you know how to make choices to keep you healthy. Testing is also confidential. So, why not?
Talk about HIV. Challenge stigma. Encourage friends and family to get tested. Take the test and take control!
Beth Reilly, MPH
Red Ribbon Project board member