COLOURS Organization celebrates Juneteenth with its first bring-a-friend-to-testing event June 19 to encourage more people of color to learn their HIV status.
Juneteenth is the oldest-known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
“COLOURS serves the community that’s most affected by HIV,” said executive director Damon Humes. “We want to honor the history of African-Americans in this country while also preserving our futures with more people knowing their status.”
COLOURS provides health and wellness services to the city’s black LGBTQ community, including HIV testing, support groups and navigation services for black men who have sex with men (MSM). Humes said the bring-a-friend event will help raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in minority communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2016 that African-Americans are by far the most affected racial group, with a lifetime HIV risk of one in 20 for men and 1 in 48 for women. One in two black MSMs in the United States will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime.
Terrence Fleming, COLOURS prevention specialist and educator, said the Juneteenth event aims to help the organization test more people while building a support system.
“A lot of people are scared of the thought of knowing their status. This event will alleviate that apprehension with participants bringing someone they know or trust,” Fleming said.
COLOURS provides HIV tests and STI screenings to nearly 100 people a week, with almost all of those tested being people of color. Fleming said having staff members of color helps with feelings of vulnerability, but bringing a friend to a testing would make the experience even less isolating.
“Getting tested is an experience that can very isolating and that’s why we want people to bring a friend or two with them to get tested. We want people to know they’re not alone in this process.”
Bring a Friend To Test Day will be June 19 10a.m.-10p.m. at COLOURS Organization, 1211 Chestnut St., Suite 910.