June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, created in 1995 by the National Association of People with AIDS to encourage early detection and treatment to stop the spread of HIV through the message “Take the Test, Take Control.” (1)
In 2019, a coalition of agencies within the United States Department of Health and Human Services launched Ending the HIV Epidemic in the US (EHE). EHE aims to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the US by 75% by 2025 and 90% by 2030. (2) Molecular Testing Labs (MTL) has joined the fight to reduce new HIV infections by joining the US Business Coalition to End HIV, a part of the Health Action Alliance, which has joined the effort to end the HIV epidemic in the US by 2030. (3)
MTL comprises dedicated individuals working in diagnostics precisely because they are passionate about bringing healthcare to everyone, including those in marginalized communities. Below is a beautiful piece of writing from one of our employees, describing her long-running dedication to bringing awareness, testing, and treatment to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Voices of MTL – Kajsa Holmstrom, Production Project Manager
Our recent [all-hands] meeting motivated me to speak up and say how encouraged I am by the HIV/AIDS work that Molecular Testing Labs is doing. Molecular Testing Labs has prioritized scientific advancement efforts in AIDS detection, prevention, and treatment and has demonstrated pride in doing so. This is significant as the history of the HIV pandemic exposed the presence of stigma, discrimination, and inequalities. Upon its emergence in 1981, the disease primarily affected marginalized communities in the US, including men who have sex with men (MSM), people who inject drugs, and sex workers. Regrettably, the public and policymakers were slow to respond to this new health threat. Up until 1985, when an HIV test was finally created, the only way to determine that a person had the virus was if the person was symptomatic, at which point they typically had only months to live.
I went to Mills College in the Bay Area in the ’90s and moved to San Francisco after graduation. AIDS remained a terrifying death sentence at that time. In 1994, AIDS was the leading cause of death for all Americans ages 25-44 (let that sink in), yet it was still widely stigmatized as a “Gay Disease.” This led to a reluctance to treat, delays in strategic approaches and solutions, and inspiration of whole movements dedicated to awareness.
During this period, I coalesced my understanding of the inequity of treatment experienced by marginalized communities. So, I became involved: Advocacy in the face of adversity. I organized the first AIDS Awareness Week at Mills; I videoed my friend Oz as he traversed his illness; I volunteered at one of the first housing developments for people with AIDS in the US; and I marched along with ACT UP and tried to effect change. My initial goal out of college was to get a job at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation upon graduation, but life went a different way. Now I find myself coming full circle, back to my original goal to help reduce the impact of AIDS. What an amazing series of events that led me back here.
June is Pride Month, and the timing is correlative to Molecular Testing Labs highlighting the work we do to promote health and well–being in these three areas:
- Detection: HIV testing
- Prevention: Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) testing
- Treatment: Tenofovir Diphosphate (TFV-DP) adherence testing)
The correlation exists because although AIDS affects every type of human, its largest affected population remains the MSM community. In 2021, we quietly hit 40 years post-AIDS while we were in the middle of another pandemic, this one garnering the world’s full attention and scientific collaboration. Although scientific progress has transformed HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable chronic condition, there is still no cure. This makes the work we at Molecular Testing Labs are doing critical to marginalized, underserved communities, and we should be proud to be at the forefront of testing capabilities.
- American Psychological Association. (2023, March) National HIV Testing Day, June 27. APA.org. https://www.apa.org/pi/aids/resources/national-testing-day#:~:text=National%20HIV%20Testing%20Day%20is,t%20know%20they%20have%20HIV.
- HIV.gov. (2022, July 1). What is Ending the HIV Epidemic in the US?. HIV.gov. https://www.hiv.gov/federal-response/ending-the-hiv-epidemic/overview/
- Health Action Alliance. US Business Action To End HIV. HeathAction.org. https://www.healthaction.org/endhiv