Testing and Prevention
A National HIV Testing Day Event Powered by Callen-Lorde and Sponsored by Gilead
*This organization is a Gilead grant recipient.
A conversation with Aruna Krishnakumar, Managing Director of Adolescent & Mobile Health, Callen-Lorde
HIV testing is the only way for a person to know if they are living with HIV and the first step toward maintaining a healthy life and helping prevent transmission of HIV.1 Yet, as of 2021, only about one-third (37%) of US adults ages 18-64 reported ever receiving an HIV test.2,3 Furthermore, an estimated 40% of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who do not know they have the virus.1 Barriers such as fear, stigma, and perceived lack of risk prevent many people from seeking an HIV test.4
Each year on June 27, National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) is recognized as a day to encourage people to get tested for HIV, know their status, and get linked to HIV care and treatment.5 This NHTD, the New York City Department of Health and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center are bringing HIV testing to the community at a live event in New York City, sponsored by Gilead. “Press Play on Knowing Your Status: Join us at a National HIV Testing Day event by Callen-Lorde” is leveraging collective action to drive greater impact. We sat down with Callen-Lorde's Aruna Krishnakumar, Managing Director of Adolescent & Mobile Health, to talk about this event and the power of intersectional collaborations.
Tell us about the upcoming National HIV Testing Day event powered by Callen-Lorde
Callen-Lorde is coordinating the first New York City-led National HIV Testing Day event since 2019. “Press Play on Knowing Your Status: Join us at a National HIV Testing Day event by Callen-Lorde” is an all-day, all-ages event set to take place on June 27 in Union Square in New York City. With over 35 organizations participating, we will have music and entertainment, free health screenings, health promotion, and rapid HIV testing.
The upcoming NHTD event is about prioritizing one’s health and well-being, making healthier decisions, and knowing one’s HIV status. We want to reach as many individuals and communities as we can to educate them about HIV and the importance of getting tested. Union Square is a heavily trafficked public space, and by holding the event here, we hope to help normalize HIV testing, encourage conversations about it, and make HIV testing accessible.
“HIV continues to disproportionately impact marginalized communities, black and brown communities, TGNB communities, and young people and older people. We have to address structural barriers and inequalities in order to address health outcomes. National HIV Testing Day is just one intervention of many to increase access and break down barriers.”
How do you think, as a community, we can help more people get tested for HIV, know their status, and talk to a doctor about next steps for them?
There is still so much stigma around HIV and a misperception that it only affects specific communities.6 By normalizing HIV testing as part of routine health screening and providing it in the most accessible ways—as you’re getting off the train, walking through the farmers’ market—we hope to encourage individuals to know their status. By knowing one’s status, there is so much you can do to take care of your own health as well as help protect others.1
What strategies/interventions have you found to be the most impactful in terms of engaging people in HIV testing?
Our strategies evolve with the needs of the communities we serve. We start by offering HIV testing to everyone we engage in our clinics. We don’t make assumptions about who needs testing. Our interventions need to be tailored to different generations, be accessible in multiple languages—we cannot assume what the face of HIV looks like. The CDC recommends everyone ages 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine healthcare,1 and we believe in making HIV testing a regular practice, as part of checking up on your health.
We provide HIV education and testing through community engagement, meeting people where they are. We attend community events such as health fairs, house balls, high school and college fairs, among other community events, to reach as many individuals as possible. We also leverage our mobile unit to provide full health services in the community, helping to reduce some of the barriers that keep people from going into clinics.
Living in a digital age, we also use social media to help raise HIV awareness and encourage testing. Our most recent video campaign, SMASH (Social Media and Sexual Health), features our community’s most popular social media influencers to educate on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Why are community collaborations like this essential to driving change in the HIV epidemic?
It is so important for organizations committed to helping end the HIV/AIDS epidemic to come together to create change. Intersectional collaborations like this strengthen our ability to engage communities in HIV education, testing, and care. By leveraging all of our resources and creativity, we can help drive greater change together.
“HIV/AIDS organizing, starting with the legacy of ACT-UP, is rooted in community collaboration, and we know that the only way to fight this epidemic is through cross-sectional partnerships, mutual support, and community building. To quote our namesake, Audre Lorde, ’Without community, there is no liberation’.”7
Callen-Lorde is a community health center and global leader in LGBTQ healthcare. Callen-Lorde Community Health Center provides sensitive, quality healthcare and related services targeted to New York’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities—in all their diversity—regardless of ability to pay. To further this mission, Callen-Lorde promotes health education and wellness and advocates for LGBTQ health issues.
About Press Play
“Press Play” is more than a traditional HIV testing awareness campaign. It motivates people to get tested for HIV and serves as a catalyst connecting them to care. Gilead strives to inspire people in the communities hardest hit by HIV to feel confident in knowing their HIV status, to be their true selves, and to move forward in their lives. Regardless of HIV status, “Press Play” provides encouragement to take the necessary steps to treat or help prevent HIV.