Talking about HIV Advocacy

By Crystal Townsend, Achieving Together Partner

There’s a misconception that young people are not interested in advocacy. Even with new age movements like the #dreamersact, #blacklivesmatter, and #marchforourlives, how can this notion that young people aren’t showing up exist?

I wanted to break down that myth by having a candid conversation about the issues that are important to them this legislative session.

Francine* is 54. I am a Millennial – one generation apart. We met over the weekend at one of her favorite restaurants to talk about this legislative session. Listen to our conversation.

Francine was fearful that if recognized, her employer may retaliate even though it’s illegal. So we’ve changed her name for the sake of this recording and her privacy. And I get it. She’s a working woman thriving with HIV. 

Just like Francine, I know first-hand that sometimes the quality of care you receive here in Houston is based on your ability to pay. And in some warped way we think this is okay when it’s not how it should be.

It’s a Sunday and we’re in a restaurant full of Sunday Funday goers and families most likely dining in after church. We discuss the issues that we most hope will be passed by our elected officials in Austin in the next few months.

One of the most important issues to Francine is routine opt-out HIV testing. One in five people do not know that they’re living with HIV, a preventable virus, simply because they are not tested by their provider. Routine testing is not currently a part of a wellness check – but it should be – because it allows everyone to know their status and get engaged in care. Passing mandatory opt-out HIV legislation as a standard part of a person’s yearly check-up – with the opportunity to decline the test – will create a culture of routine and widespread HIV testing. It will get individuals living with HIV diagnosed and into care, decreasing further transmissions, and best of all ending the stigma around HIV.

Here in Texas, we have a community plan to end the HIV epidemic. To get there, Francine understands that this is much bigger than HIV. A living wage and affordable health care for everyone are good places to start.

On March 20th we’ll be heading to the state capital for HIV Advocacy Day. I hope that you will join us. Sign up and learn more at

* Name has been changed at the request of the interviewee.

Crystal Townsend coordinates END HIV Houston, a citywide plan to end the HIV epidemic in Houston/Harris County through racial and social justice. She believes deeply that we can do better with our health care system, especially in Texas, and is interested in the way digital tools can be used to influence health policy.

Crystal is a lover of podcasts, a wife, and mother of three.

Twitter: Endhivhou
Facebook: END HIV Houston

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