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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.


Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


Health

Over or under? Surprisingly, there actually is a 'correct' way to hang a toilet paper roll.

Let's settle this silly-but-surprisingly-heated debate once and for all.

Elya/Wikimedia Commons

Should you hang the toilet paper roll over or under?



Upworthy book

Humans have debated things large and small over the millennia, from the democracy to breastfeeding in public to how often people ought to wash their sheets.

But perhaps the most silly-yet-surprisingly-heated household debate is the one in which we argue over which way to hang the toilet paper roll.

The "over or under" question has plagued marriages and casual acquaintances alike for over 100 years, with both sides convinced they have the soundest reasoning for putting their toilet paper loose end out or loose end under. Some people feel so strongly about right vs. wrong TP hanging that they will even flip the roll over when they go to the bathroom in the homes of strangers.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not merely an inconsequential preference. There is actually a "correct" way to hang toilet paper, according to health experts as well as the man who invented the toilet paper roll in the first place.

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Photo from Pexels.

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When Hassell gave her daughter the pencil case, she threw it in the bin complaining that everyone already had it. That's when Hassell decided to teach her daughter the perfect lesson.

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For brevity’s sake, we’ll call our main character YBC.

One night, the six girls went bar and club hopping and met some new friends. “We met some young people, and they invited us to a party. We went and danced and met more people. The night kept going on longer, and we were very far from our lodgings. These young men with 2 women in their group told us to stay with them for the night,” she wrote.

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3 moments that might convince you Edgar Allan Poe was a time traveler.

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When her 5-year-old broke his leg, this mom raised $0. It's actually inspiring.

Her crowdfunding alternative is so obvious, it's shocking America hasn't taken advantage of it.


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Photo via iStock.

Freddie was doing tricks down the stairs of his front porch when he fell off his bike — and his bike fell on him.

"[He was] just crying, wouldn't let us touch his leg, couldn't put any weight on his leg. We knew," mom Ashley says.

Ashley rushed Freddie to the emergency room, where an X-ray confirmed the bones in his left shin were broken in half. He needed to be sedated, his bones set and put in a cast. It was an agonizing day for the Teers. But it's what happened next that was truly inspiring.

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