Sunday, June 27th was National HIV Testing Day. To acknowledge the importance of HIV testing and to commemorate the 10th Annual Black Entertainment Television Awards (BET), the cable channel hosted a testing event at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles, CA. AIDS Healthcare Foundation was responsible for HIV testing and the Black AIDS Institute was present to disseminate HIV/AIDS awareness information and discuss the impact of HIV and AIDS on the Black community. BET offered very nice incentives to encourage community members to get tested. The first 100 people in line received a free ticket to the show and everyone was allowed to take a picture with a real BET Award on the Viewer's Choice van.
The event began with approximately 60 attendees waiting in anticipation to get tested. As the day progressed the line continued to grow. While people waited in line me and my fellow interns passed out information about the Black AIDS Institute's Test 1 Million campaign, facts about HIV/AIDS in the Los Angeles area, and cool gifts including: buttons, stickers, and wristbands. Aside from passing out information we also had the opportunity to go on stage and speak about why getting tested is important. My favorite part about going on stage was being able to interact with the audience in our "audience challenge." For this portion of the event we asked questions about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. If an audience member answered correctly they received a free Test 1 Million t-shirt.
This event was great because it stressed the importance of getting tested to our Black community, especially Black youth between the ages of 18 and 24. This demographic is especially important because statistics show that rates of HIV/AIDS are steadily increasing within this group. Since the BET Awards features celebrities that are admired and respected within the Black community and around the world, having an event with BET focused on HIV/AIDS awareness was a great way to get young people engaged. HIV/AIDS testing is important because it is a form of prevention. Knowing your status can prevent you from unknowingly spreading HIV, save your life and help you maintain your negative status. You can show your love for your partner by getting yourself tested. It is very important to know your status and your partner's status before engaging in sexual activity. So practice self-love by practicing safe sex and get tested regularly.
La'Mia Bryant is a graduate student studying public health and social work at the University of Michigan.