Health advocates across Tarrant County used National HIV Testing Day to meet people in person, encourage testing and combat stigma. The latter is especially important in Black and Latino communities, said Celebrate Shi Founder Misty Wilder.

Celebrate Shi, a nonprofit focused on the wellness of people of color, offered a mobile HIV testing clinic June 27 for National HIV Testing Day. The mobile clinic tested residents from the 76104 and 76105 ZIP Codes at the Poly Subcourthouse, 3500 Miller Ave, and HustleBlendz Coffee, 1201 Evans Ave.

“It gives us an opportunity to come face to face. What are your fears? We already know HIV is stigmatized, especially in the Black community,” Wilder said. “We have to change the narrative and change the conversation that it’s not a standalone, but it’s about your whole health.”

The goal, she said, was to make it as easy as possible to receive a test.

“We just wanted to make it accessible for National HIV Testing Day and target people of color, because that’s where we see the higher rates of incidents of people not in care,” Wilder said.

Ruben Ramirez, director of community health for the AIDS Outreach Center, said misconceptions, stigma, fear, lack of education and access play roles in why people don’t test frequently.

Social media and television don’t provide enough information about HIV testing, Ramirez said. 

“In Texas, we don’t have comprehensive sexual education,” Ramirez said. “We don’t have that and that becomes problematic because then the person is left on their own to find that information. And, for some that don’t necessarily have the wherewithal or the resources, then they fall through the cracks.”

That is where organizations like the AIDS Outreach Center, Beat HIV Tarrant County and Celebrate Shi come into play.

“We are working to change the narrative. It’s not just a gay disease. It affects all of us. Know your status,” Wilder said.

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian ArguetaSoto

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. He can be reached at cristian.arguetasoto@fortworthreport.org or (817) 317-6991.