Ross Mathews, SF’s Grand Marshal, Says Get Tested for HIV
Talk show host Ross Mathews, who just finished wrapping season two of "Hello Ross!" is honored this week to serve as Grand Marshal of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade. He will use the platform to provide a positive role model for LGBT youth, and to encourage HIV testing as part of his partnership with OraSure and their at-home oral HIV test, OraQuick.
"The parade is mostly about me waving while sitting on the back of a convertible, but it is also a validation of something I set out to do long ago when I first started working in this industry," said Mathews. "I always wanted to be a talk show host, and to have something I didn't have as a kid: A happy, openly gay, successful grown-up role model. I consciously try to provide this for kids to know that they can be whoever they are and have a happy life. After all, I was chosen as Grand Marshal of San Francisco Pride, so that shows that it works!"
He is also using his platform to encourage people to get tested for HIV, in tandem with June 27, National HIV Testing Day. Mathews has worked for the past year to promote OraQuick, the at-home HIV testing kit.
"I decided to work with them because I didn't realize how easy it was to know your status in 2014," said Mathews. "When my partner Salvatore and I started dating, we got tested with the needles and the blood and the waiting, and it was scary. I didn't know that in 20 minutes at home, you could know your status just by swabbing your mouth. In 2014, there is no reason not to know your status. If you're sexually active, you've got to know!"
Mathews said he travels around the country speaking about at-home HIV testing to people who might not know it existed without his message. The majority of people he meets don’t know how easy it is to get your HIV test results with OraQuick.
"If you’re having sex, it’s just the responsible thing to do," said Mathews. "Cases of HIV are on the rise, and I think people are less scared of HIV/AIDS because of advances in treatment, which is wonderful, and because they’re afraid to be tested, because of the needles and blood and waiting period and what ifs. So it’s important to know that it’s so easy!"
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men who have sex with men (MSM) represent only two percent of the U.S. population, but account for 63 percent of all new HIV infections. Knowing your test results can help you be more responsible, he noted.
If you are negative, keep up the safe behavior, said Mathews. If you are positive, there is a 24-hour English/Spanish 800 number in the kit that will connect you with trained professionals who can counsel you and connect you to lifesaving health care resources in your area.
"We are trying to take the stigma of testing away, so that you can have sex responsibly," said Mathews." And National HIV Testing Day, held at the start of Pride weekend in many large cities, is the perfect opportunity to get tested.
"Listen, I hope everyone goes out for Pride and celebrates our equality, gets a great buzz and has a good time, but at the end of the day you need to be responsible for yourself and those who you have sex with," said Mathews. "In 20 minutes you can know your status. It’s important to party, but we’re all adults here. Get tested with OraQuick at home, and then go out and party."
The OraQuick test kit costs $39.99, can be ordered online and will be shipped to your home in a generic wrapper, to ensure privacy. For more information, call 866-436-6527 or visit www.oraquick.com