I got tested for HIV. Here are my 5 big takeaways.

Hey, I'm Robbie. And I just got tested for HIV.

I'll be real with you: It'd been a minute since I got tested, which is admittedly embarrassing. I'm a gay man — which puts me at higher risk of infection — with ample access to testing centers in my area of Chicago. I don't have an excuse for putting it off. I need to be getting tested. And frequently!

So I did the damn thing.


All photos by Robbie Couch/Upworthy.

I honestly don't know why I was avoiding it. Naiveté? Ignorance of what a positive result would mean for me? Legit laziness? A toxic blend of all three?

Probably. June 27, 2018, is National HIV Testing Day, though. And that kicked my butt into gear.

While my testing experience was surprisingly easy and pain-free, it also served as a slap in the face, a reminder of my own privileges and the barriers exposing those most vulnerable to an ongoing public health crisis that's not getting better.

Here are five takeaways I had from the experience:

1. My test was wicked fast, free, and totally painless.  

I went to the nearby Center on Halsted, which is a bustling queer oasis boasting colorful artwork, plush sofas, and an impressive array of programs and services for Chicago's LGBTQ community. I wish every queer in the world had access to it.

I had an appointment, but the center — which, like many similar facilities, offers free testing and doesn't require insurance — takes walk-ins too. I was instructed to head up to the second floor, find a seat on a white couch, and relax until they were ready to see me.

Then I met Melvin, a manager of HIV services at the center who'd be walking me through the testing process. He was a great resource to have.

He patiently answered all of my painfully basic questions about HIV and other STDs ("There's no such thing as a stupid question," he assured me), then filled me in on how testing worked, noting I'd have plenty of helpful, healthy options moving forward, should my result be positive.

Then bloop — I got a tiny prick on my fingertip. Melvin drew some blood and noted it takes just 21 minutes to get results. New rapid-testing technology means clients can be in and out in under an hour, easy, Melvin said. And at larger public testing events, like Pride festivals, the process can be accelerated even more.

While we waited, Melvin asked me a handful of questions so that if I were interested I'd know what kinds of programs I can benefit from at the center.

I learned a few fantastic things while we chatted, too, like:

2. You may be able to get tested along with a partner or a group of friends who also want to know their status.

This is cool! And I didn't know it was a thing!

While guidelines require that the disclosing of test results are done one-on-one, the process itself doesn't need to be a solo affair at the center, Melvin explained. If you want a significant other or your crew to come along for support and also get tested, that's totally fine.

3. PrEP is newly available for teens. And that's huge.

PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a pill that, if taken daily, drastically reduces your risk of HIV infection. Anyone can go on PrEP, which has the brand name Truvada, but it's especially encouraged for those most at risk of infection.

I've been thinking about going on PrEP for awhile. And to be honest, there's no good reason I haven't.

"For most people, it's quite affordable," Melvin said, continuing on to say that health insurance will usually assist with co-pays, and — if you're not insured — there are many programs that can help. (Still, however, the pricing of PrEP has been a controversial barrier for many in the LGBTQ community who need it most.)

During my trip to get tested, I got the ball rolling on getting on PrEP!

In May, the FDA announced that PrEP can now be prescribed to teens as well. And that's a big deal. "The sooner that medication is in that demographic pool of people, the better," Melvin explained.

Why that is, however, reflects a sobering reality about our war on HIV.

4. HIV is still a public health crisis among certain marginalized groups.

An intersection of racism and socioeconomic inequality means that younger boys and men of color and transgender women, have largely been left out of the progress we've experienced on HIV in the U.S.

If you're a black man who has sex with men, for instance, the CDC projects that you have a 50% chance of contracting HIV in your lifetime, if current rates hold steady.

Why isn't there more urgency to confront this epidemic?

"As the virus abated in the white population, it also dwindled in the public consciousness," Leah Green recently wrote for The Guardian. "Even charities set up to combat HIV and AIDS changed focus: Their attention turned to the equal marriage fight."

Melvin told me there are a variety of compounding factors that continue to put young men of color and trans women more at risk. These groups are more likely to lack affordable health insurance and face discrimination while receiving care, for example. Black and brown LGBTQ people are less likely to have access to affirmative services that can test for and treat HIV as well. And up until recently, most messaging encouraging queer people to get on PrEP targeted the white, gay, cisgender population.

These barriers need breaking.

5. Ignorance around HIV and how it's transmitted is still stigmatizing people who are HIV-positive.

No, you can't get HIV from sharing a glass of water with a positive person or being serviced by the same barber who cuts their hair. But Melvin continues to hear a lot of wild ideas like these floating around.

"There is still a lot of fear and stigma," he said. "Even among gay men."

The use of dating and hook-up apps haven't necessarily helped either. Many gay or bi men who are "undetectable," for instance, face discrimination from potential partners who don't realize that, although they are HIV-positive, they will not transfer the virus.

"If that person is forthright about being undetectable, they can still be stigmatized on apps or in the community for being honest," Melvin told me.

Detectable or not, however, HIV-positive people can certainly still be in loving, sexual relationships without passing the virus to their partners. It just takes treatment, commitment, and communication.

After 21 minutes had passed, and I'd asked Melvin enough questions to make his head spin, we got my results.

And now I feel so much better just knowing my status.

The worst part about the prospect of HIV/AIDS is living in the unknown. Don't avoid getting tested simply out of fear. Understanding your health and having a solid plan to stay on top of it — regardless if you're HIV-positive or negative — is the best way to live a long and healthy life.

What are you waiting for?

You can find free, fast, and confidential testing near you. Head over to the CDC website to learn more.
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

via Wikimedia Commons and Goalsetter

America's ethnic wealth gap is a multi-faceted problem that would take dramatic action, on multiple fronts, to overcome. One of the ways to help communities improve their economic well-being is through financial literacy.

Investopedia says there are five primary sources of financial education—families, high school, college, employers, and the military — and that education and household income are two of the biggest factors in predicting whether someone has a high level of financial literacy.

New Orleans Saints safety, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and social justice activist Malcolm Jenkins and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation hope to help bridge the wealth gap by teaching students about investing at a young age.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.