As soon as he came out at the age of 22, artist and designer David Bromstad began meeting people with HIV. The winner of HGTV's first Design Star competition, in 2006, and now host of his own show on HGTV, Color Splash, Bromstad says the issue of HIV is "very dear to my heart. Being in the gay community, you're around HIV a lot," he told Positively Aware. And so, he says it's his honor to promote HIV testing, by teaming up with Janssen Therapeutics for the "Know Yourself: Get Tested" initiative. On September 27, for Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Bromstad will unveil a mural in Manhattan promoting testing and awareness.
"This is my time to give back," said Bromstad. "This is a disease you don't die from, but you can prevent it and you can treat it."
Bromstad said people older than 30 have heard a lot about HIV, but he doesn't see a true understanding of risk in younger people. He called the lack of fear both a good thing and a bad thing. Having seen many of his close friends deal with their HIV infection, Bromstad, who is HIV-negative, gets it. "It's a lifelong disease with no cure, and it's something that has to be managed and that's no fun. It's still medicine. It's still side effects."
"It's heartbreaking," Bromstad continued. "People don't understand the nuances."
At the same time, he hopes people will overcome their fear of dealing with all that, since so many people do not test for HIV until their disease has progressed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of five people with HIV in this country don't know that they have it, and furthermore, gay and bisexual men are the only group with a rising rate of infection. "If you're afraid to get tested, get tested anyway, so you can make it more manageable [rather] than waiting until it's [too] late," Bromstad said.
In a half-hour video promoting HIV awareness, "Simple HIV Facts Everyone Should Know," face time with HIV-positive people, their medical providers, and a support group is alternated with shots of Bromstad in his studio, beautiful, colorful works and supplies lining the shelves behind him. "It's a break from the seriousness," he says with a laugh. That mix makes for an awareness video that is very different from the usual (it can be viewed at www.acpfoundation.org/videos.htm).
In a press release, Bromstad said, "Knowledge is one of the most powerful tools in fighting HIV, and you have to get tested to know your status. I am especially passionate about HIV testing and education because it particularly affects the community to which I'm proud to belong. I want to raise awareness of the importance of testing by using something I know well and am also passionate about: art and design. Join me by getting tested and encouraging others to do the same."