Friday, May 29, 2009
So often in social services and in community work, we hear the word "empower" (as in, "my job is to empower my clients..."). People become empowered when they are given choices, and allowed to make those choices. But when it comes to HIV-testing, this concept is elusive. The technology exists for people to find out in the privacy of their own home their HIV-status (at least through a screening), and in other parts of the world, people are able to acquire these tests easily. But here in the US, the purchase of these tests over the counter is illegal. Lacking FDA approval is the stated reason - which is true - but what are the reasons these tests are not available? Without going into a lengthy diatribe about this, the essential reason seems to be that people are concerned that our society is not ready for people to screen themselves in the privacy of their own home.
I (Brad) recently purchased an HIV-screening kit on-line. With co-workers in Washington, we screened ourselves. For the first time in the 17 years that I have known I have HIV, I visually confirmed for myself that, yest, I do have HIV. It was a subtle shift in my perception. It can also be an empowering experience to further turn around and offer this screening to others.
As we gear up for National HIV-Testing Day, getting government approval to expand the testing/screening options for people is one of our major goals. We cannot effectively stop the spread of HIV until all people know their status. We cannot effectively empower people to do this by limiting their options, but rather by expanding their options.