Associated Press (01.18.12) - Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Supported by the MAC AIDS Fund, the innovative "Testing
Together" program encourages gay male couples in Chicago and
Atlanta to get tested for HIV together and hear their results
together. After delivering the results, a trained counselor
facilitates the couple's discussion about what to do next,
including any agreements they may want to make about sex and
how they will protect each other from infection.
The aim is to bring honesty to sexual relationships, said Rob
Stephenson of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory
University in Atlanta. Relationships offer only "mythical
protection" against HIV, said Stephenson, one of the
researchers behind the program. Some partners may rationalize
that "If he were HIV-positive he would have told me," or "If
he wanted to know, he would have asked."
Testing Together hopes to test 400 couples by the end of the
year. Each participant signs a consent form that addresses
receiving counseling, testing and results with a partner in
the same room at the same time. Counselors are trained to
dispel transmission-related HIV myths; particular attention is
given to couples in which one partner is HIV-positive and the
other is negative. The counselor can help the HIV discordant
couple learn ways to protect the uninfected partner,
especially through correct and consistent condom use.
A similar testing program by Washington, D.C.-based Family and
Medical Counseling Service Inc. has tested about 145 primarily
heterosexual couples annually since 2008.
New research suggests that up to 68 percent of new HIV
infections among gay men come from a main partner, not through
casual sex, in part because main partners are less likely to
use condoms. One study of HIV-discordant married couples in
Africa estimated that testing together cut the transmission
rate by more than half.
For more information, visit: www.testingtogether.org.