By Janine Unsoeld
Taylor says he hopes to continue offering HIV/AIDS testing one day a week in Olympia. The free service is only offered to people deemed high risk: men who have sex with men and their partners, sex workers and their partners, injection users and their partners, those who have been recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, and anyone who has had sexual contact with someone who is HIV positive. Taylor says the test is a quick process, using an oral swab, and no blood is drawn. Results are available in 20 minutes.
He also hopes to offer the group, if it continues, some support including continued free use of the meeting space, access to Mpowerment manuals, resource library materials, and some pre-purchased supplies.
"The irony is the fact that we've proven in Thurston County that prevention does indeed have a direct impact on new infections....but it’s easier for the State to track the success of a biomedical approach and harder to track the work of education, information, and awareness. I fear we’re going in the wrong direction – giving up on prevention strategies is wrong. Three out of every four new infections are still gay/bi men in Washington State and many young folks don't realize HIV is still an issue,” says Taylor.
But Taylor isn't just waiting or relying on state government to educate young men about safe sex.
A 2009 graduate from The Evergreen State College, Taylor uses his media production and business leadership degree and skills toward his HIV/AIDS education work here in Olympia. He says it’s about understanding people, and being in a small town that affects people’s decision to get tested.
With his friend Sonny Nguyen, he created a spoken word film called, “How to Use a Condom,” which ended up winning the University of California Los Angeles’ Impact 2012 grand prize award. Nguyen lives in Olympia and is a volunteer with Mpowerment Olympia. The two filmed it on a whim in the space currently used by Mpowerment and were encouraged by friends to send the film into the contest.
The grand prize earned Taylor and Nguyen $5,000, which they donated to the Pierce County AIDS Foundation to support the Mpowerment program in Olympia. The film can be seen on The Hook Up, Mpowerment Olympia’s YouTube show, at www.youtube.com/mpoweroly.
Taylor has also produced a 15 minute dark comedy called, “Tying the Knot,” about a closeted politician trying to find redemption through his secret, kinky relationship with a male prostitute. It recently showed at the Olympia Film Society. He also volunteers with Capital City Pride, which is Saturday, June 22 in downtown Olympia.
And with Taylor's help, a fundraiser for Mpowerment, the Red Ribbon Prevention Gayla, will be held on Saturday, June 22, 6:00 p.m., at the Olympia Ballroom, 116 Legion Way NW, Olympia. There will be a dinner, silent auction, dessert dash, 50/50 raffle, live performances and presentations from local LGBTQ community leaders. Contact email@example.com or go to www.mpoweroly.org for ticket information.
For more information or to learn how to support the activities of Mpowerment, go to: www.Mpoweroly.org or www.piercecountyaids.org/prevention. Mpowerment Olympia is located at 317 4th Avenue East, 4th Floor, Olympia, (360) 352-2375. No-cost, rapid and confidential HIV testing is on Fridays 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. and by appointment.
Free, rapid HIV/AIDS testing is also available through the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department at 522 Franklin St SE, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Their entrance is on the Legion Way side of the building.
For more information about Capital City Pride, go to www.capitalcitypride.net.