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Take Pride in Testing

In my early 20s, I got kicked out of one of my favorite gay clubs in DC for sneaking a drink to my
best friend, Ayael. The club had two rooms, with DJs that played two different types of music
every night. The drinks were strong and the crop tops were short. It was queer heaven, but I
made the mistake of sneaking him a few sips without realizing a DJ had locked eyes with me. I
saw him whisper into a walkie and within minutes we were outside enjoying the cool summer
breeze. We were actually best friends until he passed away in 2022, but he had skipped two
entire grades! I was 21, but he was 19, so that bouncer ousted us onto the sidewalk like Jazzy
Jeff on Fresh Prince. We were absolutely in hysterics after we had wasted so much money on a
cover fee and had just purchased a fresh drink. Then something magical happened. A stream of
giddy gay men emerged the club and ran over to a mobile bus and remerged cheering. They
held hands and went to their cars together instead of going back into the club. We sat on the
curb watching this for nearly an hour, as partiers stopped by the bus, went into the party, and
then emerged an hour later and cheered. It was a mobile HIV Testing bus and they were
celebrating their negative results and headed home for some fun. That is a good night.

That pride they held in getting tested was nothing I had seen before. On my college campus, I
had been recently tested and given my results like I was on Steve Wilkos. We all sat quietly in a
small auditorium while the tests ran in little conference rooms. They called us back one at a
time to get our results and sat us down at a long table. The phlebotomist looked at me across
the table and said, “what would you do if you have HIV”? I stumbled ove an answer as my heart
raced. They followed with, “where would you have gotten it if you have HIV”? Complete silence
followed while I fumbled over all of the instances where I had had unprotected sex in the last
couple months. The person just stared at me. They finished it by waiting a few more moments
in silence and then saying, “ your test results are negative but this is the importance of why it
matters”. And that stuck with me for years but not in the way they wanted. Seeing those
cheering men emerge from that bus into the summer night stayed with me in the best ways.

We should take pride in testing, for better or worse, because knowledge is power. Stigma,
shame, gaslighting, prodding, and getting results at an interrogation room is not uplifting health
and well-being. Building strong and healthy communities means that getting tested is the
beginning of the journey, not the end. And there is so much to celebrate. We celebrate PrEP (
we will have an article on that coming soon!), we celebrate safe-sex, we celebrate intimacy, we
celebrate what our bodies can do, we celebrate what scientists can do. And we celebrate Pride
in June and pay homage to all those who came before us who died without reliable testing and
reliable treatments. Maybe we all continue to take pride and ourselves and take pride in our

Ps. At least we took this picture mere moments before we were banished.