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"Testing Together" Program Breaks Ground Among Gay Couples

By Ikè Nwankpa

January 30, 2012

An HIV testing initiative being implemented in Atlanta and Chicago is adopting an approach historically used for heterosexual couples in hopes of decreasing HIV transmission rates and increasing awareness among men who have sex with men.

"Testing Together" aims to break barriers that prevent partners from discussing the disease by testing them (and sharing the results) together. One of the project's goals is to tackle HIV/AIDS stigma and other barriers that make it difficult for MSM to have open and honest conversations about testing, HIV risk and monogamy. USA Today reported:

The idea is to bring honesty to sexual relationships, said one of the researchers behind the program, Rob Stephenson of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in suburban Atlanta.

Relationships offer only "mythical protection" from HIV, Stephenson said. Some couples may have avoided talking about each other's HIV status, thinking, "If he were HIV positive he would have told me," or "If he wanted to know, he would have asked."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68 percent of newly infected MSM are believed to have acquired the disease not from casual sex, but from condom-less sex with their main male partner. As of now, Testing Together is currently offered at four high-impact clinics: two in Atlanta and two in Chicago. According to USA Today, there are plans to expand the program to other cities around the U.S.

Research of couples testing strategies among heterosexuals found that counseling, testing and discussing results together were successful in reducing HIV transmission.

Do you believe that programs like this will make an impact among gay couples?

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