Thursday, February 7, 2013

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: Including LatiNegr@s, Mi Testimonio

Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and I'm proud to ensure that LatiNegr@s are included! It's important to know your HIV status and right now getting tested is the only way to know for sure. Below is a video with several Black women sharing why getting tested is important. After that video is my story of getting tested.

My last HIV test was at the Black Girl Project Sisterhood Summit (if you don't know about the Black Girl Project you are probably a new reader to this space as I've been a board member for several years! Go buy one of our fantastic t-shirts!) There were several folks providing testing to the young Black women present (and yes there were LatiNegr@s present!). It was an amazing day filled with so much knowledge, affirmation, laughter, and food!

I had the same partner for 3 years and knew my test would be the same outcome as the tests I'd had over the years: negative. At the same time, I was still scared. The anxiety that comes with getting tested, even if you are sure of the results as I was, is real. What if the test is not 100%, what if I get the test that is a "false positive," what if questions were present. I share this because this may be a common experience for many.

The fact that I was committed to getting tested, to having the young Black women see me get tested too, alongside them, was important to me. Yes, we have made different decisions, but we share a common goal in wanting to know our HIV status and get tested. In that moment, the young Black women and I were having a shared experience. We understood one another in a way that is often forgotten among intergenerational interactions. It was a moment that I was very deeply proud to have had.

I also knew I was surrounded by other Black women who love and adore me and would be present with me if I needed them in any capacity (that's right! if something happens to me I will be missed, just like you reading here!). We have one another's backs. After I answered some questions, completed the consent forms, and had my mucus membranes in my mouth swabbed I waited about 20 minutes for my results. I took a lot of deep cleansing breaths. I talked with the other young Black women waiting for their results. I was happy, and anxious.

When I received my test results they were negative. I was relieved. I was given the usual package of condoms and dental damns and lube and a form. That evening I shared with my partner that I had received an HIV test and shared the results. This was not our first conversation together about the topic, but I know it was their first conversation about HIV with a partner in their entire life!

::in my Arrested Development "Everyday People"voice:: The moral of the story is many people of Color don't know their status and are still not discussing HIV transmission with their partners. As someone in their mid-30s who is in the sexuality field, I talk about HIV often. It is rare that I meet a potential partner who is as comfortable as I am in discussing HIV transmission, testing, and protections. I'm often the one who has the "paperwork" to show I'm not making things up and I want to change that experience. I'd love it if the people I come into contact with know their status, have the paperwork, and pride to share that they too get tested on a regular basis.

You reading this, you are important. You are important and a contributing member of your communities. You matter and you are valued. LatiNegr@s that includes you too! For all of these reasons and more get tested to know your status. You are not alone, ever!

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