Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What is it about HIV-testing that scares people so much? It's an on-going challenge that is fueled by stigma and fear. Over the past few years, the work of The Mosaic Initiative ( has been to promote HIV-testing as an essential ingredient to stopping the spread of HIV. We cannot effectively get ahead of the HIV-curve if we keep following where the virus has been, and the fact is that HIV-testing is really the only way to know where the virus is from a public health perspective.

But, when you talk with people about HIV, and the needs that exist to respond to the pandemic, you hear about the treatment needs, poverty, needle-exchange, sometimes education, and other things - but all with an eye on the "other" or "them". This "other" group can be in our own backyard, or in far-away places. Rarely do you hear, when at the end of the saga of HIV, the speaker turn to the audience and say "ok, here's where I want you to start - get tested". But that's really all that The Mosaic Initiative is focusing on right now. We have come to see that the resistance to getting tested is so real and pervasive that it absolutely must be overcome if we are to slow the spread of HIV. It is the ultimate in changing the stigma of action from something "they" must do to being something we all can do. The fact is that we cannot really know and develop an action plan around HIV unless we have a real good sense of who has it, and who needs education.

So, when you have the opportunity, please do this, and encourage others to do the same. If you are in the Wheaton, IL area, join St. Paul Lutheran Church on June 5 for HIV-testing. Or go to your health department or medical provider. Going to your provider may be best. It's the opportunity to really break down the stigma while also testing your own doctor's awareness of the 2006 CDC guidelines that all people get tested.

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