Drag softball game highlights pressing need for HIV testing

By Jane Pojawa

With an accent almost as thick as her makeup, Frieda Laye of drag comedy troupe Chico’s Angels is commenting on a softball game.

“And she hits the ball and she” Andale ” Bitch, you better run!”

The hitter, a member of the West Hollywood Cheerleaders, drops the bat and scrambles to first base ” blond wig flying in the wind but miraculously staying attached. The first baseman, dressed in an abstracted nun’s habit, catches the ball but drops it.

“She safe! OK, you stay there, honey!”

The occasion is the Fourth Annual Drag Queen World Series, held May 9 at the Glendale Sports Complex. The defending champions, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, took on the West Hollywood Cheerleaders to raise money for The Life Group LA, a nonprofit that provides education and emotional support to persons impacted by HIV/AIDS.

The fundraiser is light-hearted, but the cause is not. Participants emphasized that the AIDS pandemic is not over. They want to erase the stigma still associated with the disease.

Sister Unity of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group formed in 1979 to support LGBTQ causes, offered an invocation and blessing at the start of the game: “May the clients of Life Group LA be blessed, may the workers who promulgate the mission of Life Group LA be blessed, may the contributors to Life Group LA be blessed and may Life Group LA be unnecessary.”

Unfortunately, The Life Group LA is necessary. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 26 percent of new HIV infections occur among young people aged 13-24, and about 60 percent are not aware that they’re infected. That’s nearly 12,200 people every year.

Last month, a rural area in Indiana made headlines with 142 confirmed HIV infections spread primarily through intravenous use of a prescription painkiller, Opana. Sexual orientation and race are not barriers to infection, a fact that the Scott and Jackson County cases confirm.

The CDC further recommends that HIV testing be a perfectly normal part of health screening in routine medical exams for all individuals, in particular sexually active young people.

Ty Ramsower, senior coordinator for Health Promotion & Wellness at the Student Health & Counseling Services, is adamant that testing saves lives.

“Getting tested can give you some important information and can help keep you ” and others ” safe,” said Ramsower. “If you find out you are HIV-positive, you can start taking medicine for your HIV. Getting treated for HIV improves your health, prolongs your life and greatly lowers your chance of spreading HIV to others.

“Knowing your HIV status can give you peace of mind, and testing is theonly wayyou can know your HIV status for sure.”

That HIV testing can prevent further infections and improve the lives of people who are already infected is beyond dispute ” but misconceptions abound. Rest assured, the process is easy, painless and fast.

According to Katie Wang, a student assistant at Cal Poly Pomona’s Wellness Center, testing is offered every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. The next testing day is May 26.

“They use a cheek swab,” said Wang. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

The free service is offered by the East Valley Community Health Center and administered at the Wellness Center. Once per quarter, EVCHC brings a mobile testing van to campus. The confidential and anonymous test results are available in 20 minutes, and in the event that a student tests positive for the HIV virus, they will anonymously notify any partners who may have been accidentally infected. They also offer follow-up care.

According to Ramsower, about 360 students each year take advantage of the HIV testing service.

“At the Wellness Center we define wellness from a holistic perspective,” said Ramsower.

“Wellness is the integration of physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual health.

“The vision of the Wellness Center is to create a supportive environment for life-enhancing behaviors which contribute to individual health, community well-being and academic achievements.”

The Wellness Center is located in Building 46, and walk-ins are welcome.

Drag Softball

Jane Pojawa / The Poly Post

Drag Softball

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