Michigan's LGBTQ+ community has come a long way. Marriage is legal and, for the most part, LGBTQ+ people are able to live their lives as their whole selves with full acceptance from friends and family.
That isn't necessarily the case for our transgender brothers and sisters. As a Black trans woman, I am hyper aware how our community continues to be the target of hate crimes across the country, and particularly in Detroit. We must remain vigilant and look out for each other's safety. Part of maintaining safety means always being aware of your surroundings. The other part is staying physically healthy and knowing your STI and HIV/AIDS status.
With the LGBTQ+ community and allies joining together this month to celebrate Pride, we should recognize that part of living our true, authentic selves is being open and honest about the issues impacting our community. That includes talking about the importance of routine HIV testing, knowing your status, and the need for continued HIV prevention and treatment efforts among transgender and gender non-binary people.
Roughly 1 in 8 people in this state are unaware of their HIV status. It is stressful not knowing your status and it can lead to incredible anxiety and guilt. Sometimes at-risk individuals avoid social interaction altogether, which is sad because it prevents people from living as their full authentic selves. Life doesn't have to be that way. By knowing your status, you can change the numbers in our community, change your life and change your future.
There have been many great advancements in HIV prevention and treatment. Medical evidence shows that people with a higher risk of being exposed to HIV can take PrEP, a medication that will significantly lower the chances of contracting the virus. The science is also clear that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment can lower their viral load to the point where they cannot pass HIV to their partner through sex.
For those living with HIV, the concept of "undetectable equals untransmittable" or U = U offers hope for a full life. The U = U concept works best when there is frequent testing if you are at risk, so it is important to talk to your local LGBTQ or HIV resources centers. Your local resource center can help with testing and offer references for doctors who specialize in HIV treatment and prevention.
Looking out for each other means coming together as community to break the stigma of HIV. Knowing your status helps keep your loved ones safe and allows those honest and authentic relationships we celebrate during Pride Month to flourish. The medical breakthroughs of PrEP and HIV treatment allow couples to live full and productive lives, and even raise families.
As Pride Month comes to a close, I encourage everyone at-risk for HIV – this month in particular, and especially National HIV Testing Day on June 27th – to visit Michigan.gov/HIVSTD to find a resource center near you and learn about how you can live as your full and authentic selves through testing and treatment.