Coinciding with National HIV Testing Day on Monday, two openly gay officials from California took rapid HIV tests today in San Francisco. The purpose of the tests, which took place at Magnet, Castro's community health center, was to demonstrate to gay and bisexual men the importance of getting tested for HIV every six months.
California State Senator Mark Leno and San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener participated today to encourage men, a risk group facing an increasing rate of infection in the United States, to get tested. Leno said:
Despite the tremendous gains of the past thirty years, gay and bisexual men continue to be infected at alarming rates. ... I'm here today on the eve of San Francisco Pride's celebration as a calling to gay and bisexual men to test regularly and know their status so we can beat this epidemic once and for all. We owe it to the courageous leaders who came before us, to the friends and loved ones we lost too soon to this horrible disease, and to each other.
Wiener communicated that there are several important aspects of HIV testing:
San Francisco's Castro neighborhood was ground zero for the start of the HIV epidemic, and I'm taking an HIV test at Magnet today because I believe we have the power - and responsibility - to make it ground zero for ending the epidemic. But we can only do that by reducing our risk, by knowing our status, by continuing to support those already affected, and by fighting the stigma and discrimination people with HIV still face.
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation also weighed in about the continually vital role of HIV testing. The organization provides services for HIV prevention and HIV/AIDS care and works with education and advocacy efforts. CEO Neil Giuliano said:
"Even one new HIV infection is one too many," says San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano. "National HIV Testing Day is an important reminder for people to know their status, but our prevention efforts don't stop there. Every day, the foundation is providing free tests in communities with the greatest need and we are more committed than ever to bringing down the rates of new infections by expanding our testing efforts in the coming year."
img src from July 2010