Friday, November 21, 2008

Team Indianapolis
IU Test Day
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I would like to start off this story with some brutal honesty. I had just returned from a week-long vacation in California and was really not “feeling” the hour-long, early morning trek to Bloomington, Indiana. But, as usual, it only took a few minutes of being around my team members for those negatives to disappear.

I was thinking we probably wouldn’t get that much participation due to it being a college campus, but we were told from the start that participation would be relatively high and that we should expect a constant flow of students from 10a-3p. They were right! I was thoroughly impressed and surprised at the number and variety of students that showed up to be tested. Their attitudes were so unlike any attitudes toward HIV testing that I have witnessed myself. My personal experience with testing (being tested, going with others to be tested, and being trained as a tester) was, and still is to some degree, enveloped in fear, anxiety, and apprehension. What we witnessed that day was normalcy, willingness, and participative attitudes from more than 150 students. If they were in fact nervous or fearful, they did an excellent job hiding it. It was refreshing and inspiring to observe.

Another aspect of the visit that again surprised and impressed me was Kay. Kay is a trans-gender. She arrived around 10:30 that morning to help check people in to be tested. She had obviously worked with Bloomington Hospital before because the staff knew her and was thrilled to see her show up. She brought her nephew with her, situated herself and him, and immediately got to work. Surprisingly, reactions to Kay were “normal”. There were no long stares, no whispers or frowns, and no quiet laughing in the corner. Growing up and “coming out” here in Indiana, I was actually expecting those types of reactions based on my own personal experiences with trans-genders inside and outside of the gay community. But again, the students at this small-town university in the center of a very conservative state surprised and impressed me. Even a couple of members from our team had questions, but Kay’s presence didn’t seem to affect any of the students.

In summary, I guess my view of our youth today has somewhat broadened, if not totally changed. There is a sense of responsibility and acceptance amongst young adults. Now, if we can somehow channel that same acceptance upward to our more conservative older adults, and downward to our teenagers and elementary students, we may be well on our way to eradicating the spread of HIV in Indiana….or at least have a fighting chance.

John D. Patton
Team Indianapolis

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