Taking Responsibility, Taking the Test
*Photos by Jon Hrusa
As National HIV Testing Day
approaches this Sunday in the U.S., I’m reminded of my most recent test for HIV.
It was in South Africa in April, where I was attending the opening of a new health facility
supported by the Foundation in the province of Free State.
Prior to being tested, I was counseled by a local health worker
Right now, South Africa (and the rest of the world) is gripped by World Cup fever. But earlier in the year, the government and entire nation launched something just as important – an aggressive national HIV testing campaign.
On that day in April at the dedication ceremony for the Thaba N’chu clinic, everyone’s focus was on joining together as a community to fight the spread of HIV.
Patrick Malokase, a professional soccer player for South Africa’s Bloemfontein Celtics team, was there to lend his assistance to the event. He was moved to stand up and speak to the assembled crowd, talking passionately about the need for everyone to take responsibility and know their HIV status. As a father, he also urged people to get tested to protect their partners and children from the virus.
Local professional soccer player Patrick Malokese spoke to
attendees about the importance of knowing one's status
After the ceremony ended, we all got up and went for our test. It was quick and painless – a small prick to the finger – and we learned our results within minutes.
We’ve come a long way from the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when it took weeks to get test results, and an HIV-positive diagnosis was seen as a death sentence. Today there are amazing medicines available, allowing most people with HIV to live long and healthy lives.
All it took to find out my status was a simple pin prick on the end of my finger
It took just minutes to receive my results
But in the U.S., we’ve become complacent about prevention, and complacent about testing. After so many years of dramatic progress, the rates of HIV are beginning to increase at home again.
We all have a moral obligation to get tested regularly. Knowing your status is one of the most important ways to stop the spread of HIV. If you are negative, you can learn how to stay negative. And if you are positive, you can protect your own health and that of your loved ones.
In particular, with early testing and treatment, a pregnant woman living with the virus can be confident that her baby will be born HIV-free. This is one of the greatest success stories in the fight against AIDS.
Recently the U.S. government launched its own national campaign to increase HIV testing and awareness. Through this initiative, let’s follow the example of South Africans and others who are taking individual responsibility to fight this pandemic. Let’s pledge to talk about HIV prevention with family, friends, and colleagues.
This year, on June 27th, let’s commit ourselves to taking responsibility – by taking the test.
To find a testing site near you, visit www.hivtest.org.
Charles Lyons is the president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.