+
upworthy
Family

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

HIV, testing, responsible, positive

**stock photo/could use pic of Robbie with permission**A positive takeaway from responsible action.

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.



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.

National HIV Testing Day #HIVTestingDay

celebrating responsible, HIV, testing, government, awarenessNational HIV Testing Day #HIVTestingDay

www.hiv.gov

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.)

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.

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.


Image from Pixabay.

Under the sea...

True
The Wilderness Society


You're probably familiar with the literary classic "Moby-Dick."

But in case you're not, here's the gist: Moby Dick is the name of a huge albino sperm whale.

(Get your mind outta the gutter.)

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

More parents are taking 'teen-ternity leave' from work to support their teenage kids

Parenting through the teen years takes a lot more time and energy than people expect.

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

Raising kids through adolescence is not for the faint of heart.

When you have a baby, it's expected that you'll take some maternity or paternity leave from work. When you have a teen, it's expected that you'll be in the peak of your career, but some parents are finding the need to take a "teen-ternity leave" from work to support their adolescent kids.

It's a flip from what has become the traditional trajectory for modern parents. Despite the fact that the U.S. is the only developed nation in the world to not have mandated paid parental leave, most parents take at least some time off when a baby is born to recover physically from pregnancy and birth and to settle into life with their tiny new human. Many parents then opt to have one parent stay home full-time during their children's younger years, as full-time childcare is often cost prohibitive, and raising babies and toddlers requires an enormous amount of time, attention and energy.

Parents often return to work when their kids are in school full-time, and many feel a bit of a respite from the relentlessness of parenting as their kids become more independent and capable of doing things on their own. It's not that older kids don't need their parents, but their needs are different. Physical parenting gives way to more complex emotional parenting as kids get older, and for a while, those emotional challenges are somewhat simple.

Then the tween years come along. Then the teens. And for some parents, a realization hits that parenting kids through puberty takes almost as much time, attention and energy, as toddlers do. Only now, those needs are much more complicated and consequential.

Keep ReadingShow less

"The Carol Burnett Show" had one of the funniest outtakes in TV history.

"The Carol Burnett Show" ran from 1967 to 1978 and has been touted as one of the best television series of all time. The cast and guest stars of the show included comedic greats such as Tim Conway, Betty White, Steve Martin, Vicki Lawrence, Dick Van Dyke, Lyle Waggoner, Harvey Korman and others who went on to have long, successful comedy careers.

One firm rule Carol Burnett had on her show was that the actors stay in character. She felt it was especially important not to break character during the "Family" scenes, in which the characters Ed and Eunice Higgins (a married couple) and Mama (Eunice's mother) would play host to various colorful characters in their home.

"I never wanted to stop and do a retake, because I like our show to be ‘live,’" she wrote in her memoir, as reported by Showbiz Cheat Sheet. "So when the ‘Family’ sketches came along, I was adamant that we never break up in those scenes, because Eunice, Ed, and Mama were, in an odd way, sacred to me. They were real people in real situations, some of which were as sad and pitiful as they were funny, and I didn’t want any of us to break the fourth wall and be out of character.”

It was a noble goal, and one that went right out the window—with Burnett leading the way—in a "Family" sketch during the show's final season that ended with the entire cast rolling with laughter.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

People are debating the merits of a 24-hour daycare and the discussion is eye-opening

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the need for this.

StableDiffusion

Are 24-hour daycares a good idea?

Millions of American parents utilize daycare centers while they work. Since most people work during the day, most daycare center hours fall somewhere between 7:30am and 5:30pm. It's rare to find a daycare that's open after normal working hours.

But one "24-hour" daycare in Houston captured people's attention—and sparked a debate—when a mom posted about it on TikTok.

Adventure Kids Playcare in Houston isn't actually open 24 hours a day but it does offer childcare up to 10:00pm during the week and until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. In the video, the mom drops her daughter off and we hear the employee tell her they close at midnight. The mom later says she picked her daughter up at 11:55pm.

Reactions to the video rand the gamut from "24-hour daycares are a brilliant idea for parents who work odd shifts" to "Moms shouldn't be leaving their kids at a daycare late at night just so they can go out," sparking a fascinating and eye-opening discussion.

Keep ReadingShow less

A dad is looking for a little more respect at home.

The title of dad or father is a sweet and respectful way to acknowledge a child's special bond with their male parent. It signifies love and respect and shows appreciation for his role in their life. But the title works both ways. The term dad reminds fathers of the responsibility to guide and protect their kids.

The importance of the unique role dads play in their kids’ lives is why a father named Steve was upset with his wife for repeatedly using his first name when referring to him with their preteen children.

The father vented about the situation and asked if he was wrong in a Reddit post with over 10,000 responses.

“My wife recently started using my first name when referring to me to our preteen kids, as in ‘Steve's gonna pick you up from school tomorrow,’” the father wrote on Reddit’s AITA forum. “I asked her not to when I first heard it, saying I don't really like when you use my first name to the kids. Can you say ‘your dad’ or ‘dad’?”

Keep ReadingShow less

Husband's portrait of wife is so bad that she nearly stops breathing

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder but what if what your eyes behold is objectively...not good? In what appears to be a creative way to spend quality time together for a married couple, things go hilariously wrong. Ted Slaughter, uploaded a video to his TikTok page of an activity he and his wife did together.

Slaughter's wife seems to be holding the phone so you can clearly see what appears to be a painting of Slaughter, who is sitting at the other end of the table in front of an easel. The text overlay on the video says, "husband and wife paint portraits of each other (gone wrong). But what could possibly be wrong, sure his wife's attempt isn't art gallery ready just yet but it's not bad.

Based on the critiques the man had of his wife's painting, surely his looks much closer to professional level work. Right?...Right?

Keep ReadingShow less