On Thursday, June 13, 10 of us descended on Washington, D.C. to conduct the first live HIV testing in the nation’s capital. We left at 6:35 from Norfolk in three cars and arrived at the Capitol steps just minutes before we were to meet U.S. Senator Mark Warner from Virginia. A gracious man, his staff fit us into his busy schedule for a photo op and we mentioned our mission.
Afterwards we headed over to the Cannon Building and had a sit down meeting with Congressman Jim McGovern from Massachusetts. Our team explained that we were doing the first HIV testing in the country and had already received some negative blowback in southern Virginia although many citizens and most all youth we encountered were supportive. He was interested to hear that we will be in his home city of Worcester for a Clark University public HIV demonstration and Boys and Girls Club rally. He hopes to join us.
We are beginning to contact Senators and Congress people to support our petition to tha FDA to relax the mandated age for buying test kits from 17 down to 15 like the recent morning after Plan B pill decision (and younger ages with parents’ permission).
After lunch we headed to Gallery Place, the metro stop near Chinatown to set up our testing site. At first, few were interested then a number of people stopped to ask questions. We had to turn away a number of older ones that wanted to be tested because we can only afford testing teens 16 and older after signing a waiver. Our first interested teen was a almost 16 year old without a license. He then admitted his birthday was in two weeks so we had to say no test. I am not happy about this and that is why the age requirement has got to change.
A couple signed up insisting they were just good friends who wanted to do it and tell their friends by social media. Another girl said her uncle had died of AIDS (this has happened more than three times recently). Then one girl of 17 volunteered. She was instructed how to self administer the home test kit, using the swab to gather saliva and inserting it into the test tube. As a small crowd of bystanders watched, she was counseled by me and the trained interns. In 20 minutes the test results were announced to a beaming face. Four more teens volunteered until a microburst of hard hitting rain stopped our street side demonstration.
But this leads up to my headline. A couple walked past glancing at our sign of live teen testing. We overhead muted conversation and “Maybe you should do it.” A few minutes passed and they returned. The father said his daughter wanted to be tested and after signing the waiver, she followed our directions. She actually knew a lot about HIV/AIDS as her father smiled approvingly when the results were negative. All five testees received negative results.
In attendance from TA-PC were Mary Eschbach, Nathan Hill, Fatima Elamin, Candice Crawford, Emma Binder, Steven Walker, Kelly Carteris, Zach Hill, Daniel Russell and Dr. John. Before leaving for home we ate at Cheesecake Factory with two Board members Larson Bullock and Adit Ashok who treated.
The three hour return trip after rush hour was a breeze. We arrived back in Norfolk at 11 pm. Jazz was thrilled to see us.