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Capital's Celebration Parade HIV Awareness

According to the Washington Post, Metro ridership went over 800,000 on the day of the Washington Capital's Stanley Cup parade, far more than the typical 612,000 the D.C. Metro receives on any given weekday. Hundreds of thousands of diehard Captial fans came to create a sea of red in the nation's capital in order to witness a once in a lifetime event. For the first time in over two decades, a D.C. area team is a world champion.

June has unofficially become Washington Capital's month, but before the confetti fell on our newly crowned champion's head, June had already had one day predestined for an even more important cause. June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. While many, if not all, of the thousands of Cap's fans may be blissfully unaware of the important day, my partner, Brianna Jenkins, and I went deep into the crowd to raise awareness of National HIV Testing Day and hopefully encourage some to get screened for HIV in the near future.

As we spoke to more Cap fans, we found a depressing conclusion. While nobody out right said they had HIV, most people said they were unaware of their HIV status. We heard phrases like "I assume," or "I haven't been tested recently, but" all day long. While we hope that none of the individuals we spoke to are HIV positive, the fact that most of those individuals were unaware of their HIV status is disheartening. The awkward stances, facial expressions, and gestures drove home the uncomfortable nature and stigma around HIV. Most people simply wanted our conversation to be over the minute HIV was introduced. Many people were unaware of their HIV status because they do not wish to think or discuss such a disease. These people came to celebrate, not to discuss a potential life altering disease.

As the day ended, we continued to pass out cards providing additional information on how and where to get test for HIV and spoke to more people about their HIV status. While we hope that the people we spoke to get tested and encourage their friends, we are aware that it was impossible to reach everyone in that sea of red. As they celebrated long into the night, the threat of HIV looms around the corner due to a lack of knowledge and stigma that surrounds the disease. June 27th is National HIV Testing Day for a reason, after all. Everyone should be tested for HIV soon and on a regular basis, like at annual physicals. The first step in preventing the spread and the continuation of the HIV epidemic in our community is knowing your HIV status.

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