HIV prevention

June 27th is National HIV Testing today and a reminder to get tested to know your HIV status. Many people, particularly in poor communities or in the South, have difficulty getting regular HIV tests, particularly if they identify as LGBTQ. But even in bigger cities, people may be unaware of the different testing options that are available. Others might not think they’re at risk of getting HIV, even though they are.

AIDS.gov, run by the US Department of Health and Human Services, has a tracker that allows you to service by your geographic area. Check it out here or speak with your current primary care provider.

It’s also important to remember that HIV testing offers a window period, meaning that for rapid HIV tests, it can take up to 3 months for an HIV infection to be tested. So, if you think you may have been infected, get retested after the window period has ended and be upfront with your partners about your sexual behaviors. Simply getting tested isn’t enough; having open conversations about risk and desire are key component in stopping the spread of HIV.

We can all work together to end stigma surrounding HIV and create an HIV-neutral world, where people can feel comfortable having sex, no matter their status.

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On the surface, HIV has not had a big impact on my life. I’m HIV negative -or so the tests have claimed. I have used protection most times. And I don’t know many people who are HIV positive or who have shared that part of their life with me. I do not have big, personal stories to tell regarding the virus, and I’m not an activist. I’m simply a gay man who, like most others, has sex. That is, however, enough reason to engage in discussion: I consider myself part of a group of people where infection rates are higher compared to the general population, so simply turning a blind eye with inner hopes that disease won’t strike, as I have done before, is not a healthy strategy.

There are still many double standards that permeate gay life in Mexico City. Some are reminiscent of Mexico’s traditionally catholic and macho culture. It is in this context that HIV gets to play an uncomfortable role. There is definitely a stigma associated with the virus, a lot of misinformation and shame associated with being a carrier (I consider myself guilty of not being informed enough). For instance, once I was getting tested in one of the main clinics that specially caters to the LGBT population in Mexico City. I was shocked to feel scolded by the counselor that gave me my results in a conversation that felt like an attempt to bring shame into the table. As I said before, the test turned out to be negative, so I was only left wondering how that particular exchange would have been had the results been positive, when I would have been at a most vulnerable moment.

Lastly, and this is of course something I state from personal experience, I feel that is a consensus among some gay men on how casual sex is fine, as long as it’s safe. That’s fantastic. Yet to treat unsafe sex as an outlier to be rebuked is probably just to hold an unrealistic goal that may even do more harm than good. In the end, it states a line of thinking that dictates how people should act, and ignores how people actually behave. HIV is probably not going away, at least in the foreseeable future, but neither are risky sex practices. It’s an unfortunate combination, but the pressing matter is to know how to deal with it. Of course, I do not claim to hold any answers, but I do think it is of utter importance to open up dialogue.

Introduction To Social Innovation Methodology

When I started in the SIS program, the concept of “social innovation” in relation to Our Viral Lives felt like an unnecessary abstraction. I remember at one point even considering switching out of the SIS concentration because I felt my work didn’t “fit in” to the mold of a social innovation project. But the more I started to concretely plan out Fall 20015—both in regards to launching new programming and also solidifying travel plans in South Africa— I realized how clearly I was doing something that was in fact innovative and was focused on making a social, political and historical impact on discourse around HIV/AIDS for LGBTQ-identified people.

To make sense of the potential social impact and innovation of Our Viral Lives, it’s necessary to consider three different elements of the project: content, design, and method. They are all interrelated but they serve to highlight unique components of social innovation discourse.

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On Saturday, March 7th, Our Viral Lives hosted its launch event, “We Are Here” at The Bureau of General Services- Queer Division. Four under 30 activists (Kia Labeija, Martez Smith, Mathew Rodriguez and Charlie Ferrusi) were invited to speak about their personal relationships to HIV/AIDS and their activist work to a full audience. I wanted to provide a summary of the evening and offer a few thoughts about moving forward.

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The following piece was originally written by Australian HIV/AIDS activist Nic Holas and founder of the advocacy organization, The Institute of Many. It appeared first here in Sydney gay news magazine, SX. As is reported at ABC News, new HIV infection rates remain at 20 year highs, and sexual stigma runs rampant, especially among men who have sex with men.

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Sebastian Robinson was in a production about Australia’s early response to HIV when he was diagnosed HIV positive. But rather than retreat from the play, he drew strength from the very stories he was conveying on stage.

I first met Sebastian Robinson in February of this year, in Sydney, during the Mardi Gras season. I was perusing the apps in my habitual manner when a message popped up. We got to chatting and realised we had some things in common. He was in town performing in a verbatim play, The Death of Kings, about Australia’s early response to HIV. I was an HIV positive activist and knew some of the people in the play. We were both being interviewed for a documentary, Transmission, which chronicled Australia’s response to HIV.

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The Stigma Project is an organization founded in 2012 by Chris Richey and Scott McPherson. Their mission is “to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.” We wanted to highlight one of their great visual campaigns called “Live HIV Neutral,” which tackles some common sources of stigma surrounding HIV discussions, including the “clean” vs. “unclean” dichotomy that plagues those using dating apps and the misinformation that continues to spread about how HIV is transmitted.

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In recent years, this has been an alarming rise in new HIV infections among youth ages 18-30. One group of 28 individuals came together to address the challenges in HIV prevention, treatment, research, and broader cultural stigma. This is their video. What do think of their work? What are some other strategies you might recommend in dealing with HIV/AIDS in an under 30 crowd? Share your ideas in the comments section.