Today is National HIV Testing Day. By no coincidence, today is also the day I had a story air on KUT about National HIV Testing Day.
The backstory is that HIV/AIDS is one of my main beats for dailyRx.com. I cover lots of awareness days (World AIDS Day, National Women & Girls HIV Awareness Day) but for this one, I decided to get in touch with a local AIDS organization, AIDS Services of Austin. They invited me to do an in-person interview - something I rarely get to do.
Their building is very hard to find. It sits behind a hurricane fence and has no sign. They explained that the lack of signage is an attempt to reduce some of the stigma of walking in to get tested for HIV.
I got a quick tour of the building. The thing that impressed me most was a photo documentary project lining the walls, of the faces of HIV/AIDS in Austin. I realized that while I could quote off any number of studies and statistics, I don’t have any stories about HIV/AIDS - what it’s like to be diagnosed, to live with the disease these days. The people in the photographs looked healthy and normal. It’s now possible to be healthy and normal with HIV.
I think a look at those faces would do more to encourage people to get tested than any statistics or awareness day. A face and a story that was just like mine would make me get tested. I haven’t been, although I would not hesitate tell you that the CDC recommends everyone between 13 - 64 be tested at least once.
Here’s my story for dailyRx, too.