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Sunday Is National HIV Testing Day

By Joseph Erbentraut in News on Jun 25, 2010 6:00PM

2010_06_25_hivtesting.jpg While many folks will be taking in the sights of hundreds of drag queens, a lesbian country starlet, the newly gay-friendly-fied Stanley Cup and even a giant cat head (courtesy of Threadless) this Sunday for the 41st annual Pride Parade in Boystown, the day also carries a perhaps more serious meaning: National HIV Testing Day.

The day, part of a Department of Health & Human Services initiative to raise awareness of HIV testing nationwide, is particularly significant here in Chicago, where new infections continue to plague at-risk communities, particularly men who have sex with men, while state funding of drug assistance programs and service providers remains in serious doubt given our budget woes.

In the last eight years, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Cook County has doubled. As reported by Jim Pickett, director of advocacy for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, in an important Huffington Post essay today, black and Latino men who have sex with men are facing startling infection rates that border on sub-Saharan levels, as an estimated one in three gay black men and one in eight Latino gay men are infected with the deadly virus.

And as the cliche goes, silence on HIV (still) equals death. An estimated one in five Americans living with HIV today doesn't know it, and that number is estimated to be higher among gay men. Pickett hopes the LGBT community and their allies will remain vigilant in fighting the now nearly 30-year-old epidemic.

"We can't stand up for our country if we are too sick to stand," Pickett writes. "We can't get married if we're already at the 'death do us part' business. HIV/AIDS is the issue of every single gay man, and every single one of our smart, compassionate, fabulous voices is needed to reinvigorate the fight."

So, get educated, know your status and get tested. Click here to find a testing location - most of which are free - near you.