World AIDS Day 2018: “Know Your Status”

Written by Julie Lewis, 30/30 Project Founder

I was infected with HIV in 1984 and diagnosed in 1990. As many of you know, this is my story.

But, what I rarely share is that in 1988 my mom suggested that I get an HIV test because I had received a blood transfusion in 1984. As soon as the suggestion came out of her mouth I replied,

“I don’t have AIDS and don’t be telling people I could.”

That was that! I had been a health teacher and knew a lot about AIDS, yet the idea of being infected myself was unthinkable, deniable, and my HIV status was, frankly, something I did not want to know.

I took that test two years later at the urging of  my doctor. I am so grateful. Knowing my HIV status has literally extended my life. Finding out I had HIV in 1990 allowed me to get medical treatment at a critical time, before my immune system was too damaged to recover.

Denial and fear of knowing your status was, and still is, a real response to this disease. I know exactly what that fear feels like. But in 2018, the benefit of knowing your HIV status is huge. Receiving regular medication and treatment not only keeps you healthy but it also helps prevent the spread of HIV both sexually and maternally.

I share all of this because I want to normalize HIV testing and fight the fear and stigma connected to AIDS. Today three in four people living with HIV know their status. But we still have miles to go. As the latest UNAIDS report shows, it is essential to reach people living with HIV who do not know their status and ensure that they are linked to quality care and prevention services.

The 30/30 Project is proud of our headway with our partners in testing for HIV. Since opening, the clinics we have funded and built have administered over 73,982 HIV tests, nearly 35% of which were first time tests. This year alone, over 17,000 tests have been administered. Those whose tests come back positive are able to receive life-saving medications in the clinics as well as medications to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

Join us this World AIDS Day in raising awareness about the importance of knowing one’s status and calling for the removal of all barriers to accessing HIV testing.

Teresa Hillis