HIV Testing and Care

Here at BTL we feel the same betrayal, anger and frustration as many of our readers do, over the recent revelations that the Michigan Department of Community Health has been improperly collecting personal information about people testing for HIV in the state. But we cannot, we must not, allow this gross violation of privacy to stop the very important work of addressing the HIV crisis in the gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men community.

We must not allow this to get in the way of testing, early intervention and treatment.

We urge readers:

- Get tested ANONYMOUSLY. Michigan law requires testing centers to offer you the option to test anonymously - that is a test that does not use your personal information. Demand anonymous testing when you come in and refuse to accept any other test than what you would receive for confidential testing.

- If you are HIV positive, you must maintain your case management. Care is complicated enough, but letting go of the infrastructure that has been put together to help is self-defeating. The hard working and dedicated staff of the AIDS Service Organizations are here to help you connect all the available resources. Don't do this alone. AIDS Service Organizations have, in most cases, been providing services for over 25 years. They often grew out of a grassroots effort from our own communities and have consistently attended to the HIV care and prevention needs of their clientele in a considerate and confidential manner.

- If you have recently tested HIV positive, health officials are going to try to get you to name your sexual and/or needle sharing partners. Partner Services Notification is voluntary in Michigan. You do not have to answer, and you should not provide names or other identifying information about partners to health officials. This does, however, leave you in the position that you have to tell your partners. Find the means that you are most comfortable with in notifying partners be it; individually, with the assistance of an ASO or CBO, or a health department that you are comfortable with that agrees, in writing, not to enter partner data into the HIV Event System.

- BTL and the community which it serves calls on the Michigan Department of Community Health to respond to these issues in a public manner. The concerns and frustrations that have given rise to this commentary could have devastating consequences relative to HIV Prevention and Care Services in the State of Michigan. Just as the nation is embracing a National AIDS Strategies, just as "Getting to Zero" seems more than a notion, it is the responsibility of MDCH to address these concerns publically and respond accordingly, in a manner that allays fears and ensures that HIV testing, early intervention, and treatment services are provided in a considered manner.

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