On this Worlds AIDS Day, the Missouri History Museum is trying to break the world record for most people tested for HIV in one venue. Yet, Director of Community Partnerships Alex Detrick, 37, said she knows testing people is more important than setting records.
“If people can have a positive experience today and say, ‘You know what? It really wasn’t that hard, that scary, that intimidating.’ That would be exciting!” said Detrick.
To provide that positive experience, the museum will provide public art events, music and information sessions throughout the day. Performers include Thelonius Kryptonite, Mvstermind/MME, and C. Jay Conrod. The museum is trying to bring more than 1,400 individuals through its doors for testing before 6:30 p.m. Regardless of record-breaking success -- and the morning ice didn't help -- Detrick’s working to encourage people to get tested for HIV and lay aside any stigmas they may have regarding the disease. Especially if you’re young.
“I think there’s partly fear around the topic but also because we’ve dealt with it for so long, a comfort level, and perhaps as the young sometimes have a feeling of invincibility,” Detrick said.
Youth are the most at-risk demographic for contracting HIV according the CDC’s most recent studies regarding infection rates. The 2012 study showed a 22 percent increase in infection among young gay and bisexual men from 2008 to 2010. To attract this specific population the museum worked with fraternities, sororities, schools, book clubs, church groups and others. The museum also provided on-site incentives for participation like T-shirts and gift bags for participants.
“We want to ensure there’s some incentives for people planning intentionally to bring groups,” said Detrick.
Supporting HIV testing is personal for Detrick. An individual close to her is HIV positive and participates in maintenance medication treatments. Detrick said the programming she helped organize fits perfectly within the museum’s mission to strengthen bonds with the broader St. Louis community.
“Our exhibits look to the past where we can learn there but the community programs address current issues,” Detrick said.
At time of publication, the museum was unsure of testing numbers but said more than 300 people were in attendance despite bad weather.