February 7th is National HIV Awareness Day. HIV/AIDS has claimed approximately 250,745 lives over the last five years. Though much less than the 80’s this death number is still to high for a preventable disease.
Get Educated by knowing the facts about HIV and AIDS. You can learn more about the disease and treatment options by visiting your local health clinic or using online resources such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), and Aids.gov.
Get Tested as often as you think you should. Annual testing is great if you are in a dedicated relationship with a partner who has also been tested. Those who have more than one partner or deal with partners who are not exclusive should test themselves more often. There are plenty of places to get tested for free. You have no excuse to be ignorant about your status.
Honesty is the best policy and having multiple partners can increase your risk of exposure. Of course, the sheer numbers of sex partners may equate to more exposure, however, less partners do not automatically make you safe by default. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are part of a magical, moral, and safe group of people who CANNOT be infected by HIV. It can happen to you.
Make HIV testing a part of your general health checkups and only deal with those partners who are forthright with their status and willing to handle an intimate relationship with maturity. Ignoring the behavior of your partner’s infidelity or presuming that all partners involved conduct themselves in the same responsible manner is not a healthy way of dealing with reality.
There are plenty of women out here who deal with men who can be considered community property due to the sheer amount of partners they entertain. Don’t involve yourself in a petri dish of germs for the sake of preserving a false sense of commitment from someone who could care less about their health or yours. If you suspect your man is switch hitting (code for gay or bisexual) then might I remind you that gay/bisexual Black men make up 72% of newly diagnosed cases of HIV.
In 2010, Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) represent an estimated 72% (10,600) of new infections among all Black men and 36% of an estimated 29,800 new HIV infections among all MSM. Even more, there were more new HIV infections (4,800) occurring among young Black MSM (aged 13-24) than any other age or racial group of MSM.
Get Involved by making HIV and AIDS and healthy sex practices part of your everyday conversation. I dare you to pretend like you don’t know someone who has been affected or INFECTED with the virus since Blacks are 9 times more likely to be infected than are their White counterparts.
Our insistence in maintaining a wall of silence when it comes to the taboo topics of sex and sexuality only lead to the ease in which HIV is spread. All people, regardless of gender, should make sexual responsibility a priority; we can argue about the context of who is doing what with whom once we learn to protect ourselves and our partners.
Get Treated by taking advantage of new breakthroughs in HIV medical therapy treatments. HIV is no longer the immediate death sentence it once was, though a better quality of life requires those infected to be stringent with their care and realistic about their status. Ignoring the illness while continuing to live as if nothing has happened is not only a poor way of dealing with sickness, it’s also terribly irresponsible to yourself and others. Denial won’t save you.
Celebrate the day by getting tested. Find a free testing site by clicking this link. Make negativity into a positive thing by knowing your status. Create an environment of openness and acceptance by refusing to shame lifestyle choices unlike your own.
Be the catalyst of change in our community.