Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
Yes, we have our own day during Black History Month. While people never think they are at risk for contracting HIV, that it's above them, that it is a dirty person's disease, or is only contracted by those who are gay, I am here to tell you that anyone who is negative is at risk for contracting HIV if they don't educate themselves on the disease.
America has become very complacent when it comes to AIDS. We think AIDS is only a problem in third world countries. However, the total number of people living with an HIV infection in the U.S. is thought to be around 1.1 million, and of the more than 1 million people living with HIV in the United States of America today, around half are black.
As African Americans, we should be outraged and disappointed in ourselves for being ignorant on this issue. We have chosen not to educate our children or ourselves; we are silent when our voices need to be heard the most right now.
Why do you think it's everyone else problem? Because no one is talking about it? Well, I am!
Because we are middle class, we feel safe or privileged. Are only people in the inner city or those who live in poverty are at risk of contracting HIV?
Because you may have a college degree, does that make you smarter than the average Joe walking down the street? Does that mean you make better choices?
When it comes to HIV we are all on an equal playing field; this disease does not discriminate.
The H in HIV stands for human.
HIV/AIDS has no face; it does not come with a flashing neon sign. If it did, do you think the estimated 33.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide would have taken that risk?
Do you think you can spot someone with HIV/AIDS a mile away? Is someone who has AIDS skinny and wasting away with lesions all over their body?
Please STOP. Shake your head and get those stereotypes right out of your mind.
I am not gay nor am I a girl who is promiscuous, but yet I am living with AIDS.
Every nine-and-a-half minutes, a person contracts HIV. CDC estimates that more than one million people are living with HIV in the United States. One in five (21%) of those people living with HIV is unaware of their infection, and you may have had unprotected sex with one of them.
Really, stop and think back to how many sexual partners you may have had, anal, oral or vaginal.
How many did you use protection with?
Did you go with them to be tested for HIV or any other STD?
It's 2011. Sex isn't just sex anymore, and we must learn to talk to our sexual partners about HIV/AIDS like our lives depend on it because guess what: it does.
We become ever careless when it comes to our sexual behavior; we have become complacent about HIV/AIDS.
We need to change our mind frames and stop thinking we are invincible.
Middle class African American women need to stop turning their noses up to the African American women in the club and stop thinking they are less at risk because they are picky about who they let in their beds and because they don't club hop every weekend. If you don't ask for an HIV test or go with your partner to get one, you are just as at risk as anyone else.
I ask three things of you today on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
- Post an HIV/AIDS fact on your social media sites (Twitter/Facebook)
- Get tested for HIV. Early detection can be the difference between life and death! Yes there are lifesaving medications, but a lot of people are being diagnosed when it's too late for medication.
- Talk about HIV/AIDS when it's not National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, or National Testing Day, or World AIDS Day.
To read about Hydeia's experience of living with aids, click here.