HIV/AIDS: Get Tested & Spread the Word!

I was going to wait until December 1 to talk about it, but given the troubling article I read yesterday in the Post, I guess I can go on my rant about HIV-AIDS now. D.C. has one of the highest rates of AIDS infections of any U.S. city. The incidence of infection is the greatest among African American women and among the heterosexual population, which is troubling for a straight black woman like me.

It's time for us all to wake up!

Saturday, December 1, is World AIDS Day, a time to raise awareness about the estimated 38.6 million people worldwide who are living with HIV/AIDS. It is a global health epidemic that has claimed over 25 million lives since 1981--when the first cases of a lung infection later associated with people who are HIV-positive was reported among the male homosexual population in Los Angles. The CDC provides a very nice, though abridged timeline of events: e.g., the 1988 national mailing of CDC/Surgeon General-created brochure, Understanding AIDS, was "the first time the federal government has attempted to contact virtually every resident, directly by mail, regarding a major public health problem."

Though significant strides have been made in the medical field to help prolong and improve the lives of those who are HIV-positive or have full-blown AIDS, the disease still claims too many of our mothers, fathers, best friends, siblings, lovers and children.

So please:

1) Know your status
More than one million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. Of those, about one-quarter don't know that they're infected and are unknowingly spreading the disease to their partners. Take control and find out your status.

The Whitman-Walker Clinic offers anonymous, rapid response HIV tests. Planned Parenthood is another good option. For those not in the DC area, visit http://www.hivtest.org/ for a local listing of testing sites.

2) Protect Yourself
There are approximately 40,000 new HIV cases in the U.S. every year.

It's truly amazing that in an age of widespread knowledge about AIDS and all the other sexually-transmitted diseases, people don't or won't protect themselves. Believe me, I definitely haven't been a saint all my life. I totally understand what it's like to "be in the moment" or too naked & drunk to think, but your overall physical health must take precedence over your id at all times. It is lesson that is best learned when HIV-negative and not driven home by the reality of being diagnosed with HIV.

3) Spread the Word
It probably isn't the sexiest conversation to have with a lover, but talk about your status and ask your partner about his/her status. Whether or not the relationship is monogamous and long term, keep open the lines of communication about your sexual health status and risk of infection due to current risky behaviors. You never know…

Also, talk to your friends. You'd be amazed by how many of your buddies have never been tested. Or perhaps, all your pals have been tested. Either way, urge them to be aware of their status and take precautions to stay safe.

You can also put pressure on our political leaders to help hard-hit communities in the States and around the world. We need stronger programs and adequate funding, but to truly be effectively at combating this global epidemic, we must stress prevention, protection, and treatment not abstinence!

4) Take part in World AIDS Day events in Washington D.C.
This site provides great information about events in the D.C. area, including opportunities for free testing and a rally and vigil I'll be at this Friday.

I'm sure that this entry hasn't been as logical or informative as it should be, so if you have additional questions about AIDS prevention, transmission, or treatment, please visit:


No comments: