June 26, 2008
Tomorrow, National HIV Testing Day, Philadelphia couples are encouraged to take part in a new campaign, "Get Tested Together," which kicks off at 11 a.m. in Love Park, 16th Street and JFK Boulevard.
The idea for the campaign's focus came from state Sen. Vincent Hughes and his wife, the actress and longtime AIDS activist Sheryl Lee Ralph. The hope is that having committed, monogamous couples step forward publicly for HIV testing will destigmatize the process and encourage people involved in risky sexual practices to learn their status. "It sends a strong and powerful message to other members of your family and your community," said Hughes.
"It's easier when it's early in a relationship, when they're both sort of feeling each other out," said Gary J. Bell, executive director of the nonprofit BEBASHI (Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues). "It's beginning a dialogue with couples. They are having a conversation about this."
"It's tricky. It can be awkward," said Bell. "We are a society that still struggles with conversations about sex."
Among those planning on attending tomorrow's event is the Rev. Alyn E. Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, who was tested with his wife during an event at his church's new HIV/AIDS ministry. "My position is, 'Know your status,'" said Waller. "Every person from the age of 13 to 64 needs to know their status."
For more information, visit www.testtogether.org.