Poets help hone HIV testing message

A mobile HIV testing station will be set up in Love Park  Wednesday, World AIDS Day. The voluntary AIDS screening will be accompanied by the poetry of spoken-word poets, some of whom have performed widely around Philadelphia. For other poets, though, it will be the first time they have taken it to the streets.

Philadelphia’s gay, lesbian and transgender health organization — the Mazzoni Center — is bringing the test to the people by way of the testing unit. And the center is using poetry to lure in a sometimes skittish public.

Most of the half-dozen poets who intend to perform have some personal connection with AIDS. Dennis Maurice said that as a gay, black man, he’s obligated to share his experiences publicly.

“It encourages us to be brave. And that’s what AIDS Day is about, for people to be brave and take bold moves,” said the published poet who will perform on the street for the first time. “So if we’re going to tell people to be bold and stand out there and get tested, we have to be bold and use our voices for that in that same way.”

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AIDS is less of a health crisis than it was 20 years ago, but a Mazzoni spokesman estimates that 25 percent of HIV infections in Philadelphia are undetected.

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