It’s been 11 years since one of my closest friends passed away from AIDS complications at the age of 21. I often wonder how It would be to walk a day in his shoes. I often question the what, when, why, and how this happened to someone with an amazing spirit. I never knew the importance of knowing your status until then.When I thought of HIV testing it was just a yearly routine with my primary care doctor without even really thinking about the impact of HIV/AIDS. I still often think about what was his process of thinking when his body and health began to deteriorate. If he would have gone to the doctor a little earlier would he be here with me today?
8 years later, I am still an advocate for HIV Prevention and Linkage to Care Services. My friend is the reason I changed my career path to help others in my community who look like me. I am an HIV negative African American gay male, I get tested every 3 months as my routine instead of yearly to ensure I know my status. I honor my friend and honor National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness day to celebrate his life.
NGMHAAD was created in 2008 by the National Association of People with AIDS. This national observance day was created to recognize the disproportionate impact of the epidemic on gay men. According to the Center for Disease Control, “In the United States, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are the population most affected by HIV. Among all gay and bisexual men, African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV.”
The CDC recommends that all gay and bisexual men get tested for HIV at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men should consider getting tested more often, for example, every 3 to 6 months. Remember knowing your status is a beautiful thing.
Today, I honor my friend by simply getting an HIV test and knowing my status. I walk in my own shoes to honor his life. On Wednesday, September 27, 2017 St. Hope Foundation will offer free HIV testing in honor of National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day at all locations. For more information, please go to our website