27 Jun My Test, My Way: Fear of Knowing is not an Option
National HIV Testing Day is observed annually on June 27th to encourage individuals to be vigilant in knowing their status. According to HIV.gov, It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in the United States is living with HIV and unaware of their status. This year’s theme, My Test, My Way, aims to bring greater awareness to the various testing options and testing sites individuals can utilize.
Sadly, for many individuals, the idea of being tested is so overwhelming that a discussion on various testing options would be premature without addressing the harbored feelings that prevent them from getting tested. In my professional experience, an individual’s decision not to be tested is often rooted in the weeds of stigma and misconceptions.
Because of the stigma associated with HIV, some individuals fear that their families will no longer love them if the test shows positive. Others are afraid they will live in a world of ridicule and shame that will rob them of their peace and happiness. Meanwhile, some individuals value the misconception that if they are married or only have one sexual partner, there is no need to be tested. Stigma and misconceptions have proven time and time again to be the drivers of poor decision making and detrimental consequences.
We all play a huge part in dismantling the network that allows stigmatizing behaviors and misconceptions to dictate whether a person seeks HIV testing. Let’s work collectively to create communities where our families, friends and neighbors feel safer in knowing their status. Fear of knowing is not an option!
Alecia Reed-Owens in a health law attorney at Mississippi Center for Justice