February 7, 2018 was National Black HIV Awareness Day. This year’s theme was “Stay the Course, the Fight is Not Over.” Our greatest fight yet is stressing the importance of individuals getting tested to know their HIV status. The Centers for Disease Control recommends individuals between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care and those with risk factors get tested more frequently. However, the echoes against knowing one’s HIV status continue to serve as major hurdles.

These echoes of fear, denial and misinformation are deeply rooted in stigma and threaten the goal of staying the course. In response to these echoes, we must continue to educate and advocate to reduce the stigma. When individuals know their status, it gives them the power and freedom to wholly advocate for themselves, take charge of their health, and release the chains of fear. WE MUST STAY THE COURSE, THE FIGHT IS NOT OVER.

Alecia Reed-Owens is Health Law Staff Attorney with the Mississippi Center for Justice.