Ross Mathews Helps Launch First At-Home Rapid HIV Test Kit
Ross Mathews, host of the talk show "Hello Ross!" and author of the best-selling book, "Man Up!" teamed up with OraSure on Sept. 27, National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, to launch OraQuick, the first in-home rapid HIV test kit. The event kicks off their "Life. As we know it" HIV testing campaign, to make sure that men who have sex with men (MSM) -- the highest at-risk group for HIV -- get tested for HIV.
"You should know your status," said Mathews in a recent interview with EDGE. "I understand why people are scared to find out; it has always been such an ordeal in the past. You would have to wait a week for results, but you don't have to do that anymore. With the OraQuick at-home test, there is no needle or blood. You just swab the inside of your mouth, wait 20 minutes, and you will get your status."
Mathews said that the test has changed what used to be a week of torture into a minimal inconvenience, saying that before you could make a snack and watch a TV show, your test results would be ready.
Gay men 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 an 800 number in the kit that will connect you with trained professionals who can help you find out how to keep from infecting others, and how to begin lifesaving treatment.
Although HIV/AIDS used to devastate the gay community, today it is mostly a manageable disease. But Mathews will not let his friends or fans use that as an excuse! He relayed the story of a woman he met on an 'R Family Cruise who lost her son to AIDS in the '80s.
"Grabbing my hand, she said, 'We didn't know what was going on. Everyone was dying,'" said Mathews. "The fear was still with her. I will never forget that. So when OraSure asked me if I wanted to help spread the word, that moment came into my head, and I thought of how lucky we are, not just for ourselves but for our mothers, friends and loved ones that we can take such good care of ourselves now that we are armed with this knowledge."
Mathews is involved in a long-term relationship with his partner Salvador Camarena, a young Latino man who is among the high-risk demographic of young MSM of color. Although the two are monogamous, Matthews said that he still gets tested for HIV during his annual physical, just to be certain.
But for other young MSM men of color, accessing testing sites can be complicated by stigma; many do not want to be seen entering or exiting a place frequented by out gay men. OraQuick allows people to discreetly test themselves for HIV in the privacy of their own home.
Out, Loud, High-Pitched and Proud
Although he respects the realities of people’s lives, Mathews is not one to hang around the closet. He has parlayed his ultra-gay persona and high-pitched feminine voice from an early internship on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" into a regular gig on "Chelsea Lately," and now, his very own talk show, "Hello Ross!"
"Not to toot my tooter, but I am very good at this," said Mathews. "I am unapologetically, openly gay, and I got here being exactly who I am, by being 100 percent authentic."
In his recently published memoir "Man Up!," Matthews talks about his close relationship with his father, a football-loving, foul-mouthed man who taught his young son how to curse like a sailor. The skills came in handy growing up as a flamboyantly gay man.
"I had to defend myself like we all have, and if you can verbally cut a bitch, you are one step ahead of the game," said Mathews.
He champions the fight of all gay men to live fulfilling, authentic lives, and gives this advice to aspiring young gay talk show hosts to come:
"If you wanna make it in this town, you have to have a point of view that stands out, and is authentic to who you are," said Mathews. "Find your voice and your story, and tell it."
The OraQuick test is part of OraSure’s new "Life. As we know it" campaign to encourage consumers (particularly African-American women and gay men) to discuss love, sex, relationships and sexual health via celebrity testimonials, interactive panel discussions, sharable discussion guides and informative videos. They hope it will help prompt those communities in particular to get tested for HIV.
"Through the use of our OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, we believe more than 200,000 individuals now know their HIV status," said OraSure Technologies President and Chief Executive Officer Douglas A. Michels. "The more we can find ways to start conversations about HIV testing, especially among the communities most impacted by HIV, the better the chance there is to stop the spread of HIV."
The OraQuick test kit costs $39, 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