Thursday, March 10, 2011

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

image courtesy of
"I don't want to know."

"Ignorance is bliss."

"If I have it, there's nothing I can do about it."

There are plenty of excuses one could give for not knowing their status, but none of them are plausible. Knowing your status is a vital part of the fight against HIV/AIDS, and we as women cannot afford to turn a blind eye to it. Women, especially minority women, are disproportionately affected by this horrible disease. Want proof?

Every 35 minutes, a woman tests positive for HIV in the United States. Though much progress has been made in the areas of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, women still represent 27 percent of all new AIDS diagnoses, with African-American women making up an overwhelming 66 percent of that number. In 2006, teen girls represented 39% of AIDS cases reported among 13–19 year-olds. Black teens represented 69% of cases reported among 13–19 year-olds; Latino teens represented 19%. (source*)

If anyone is going to take the charge to turn these numbers around, it has to be us. It may not be quick, may not be easy, but it can be done. Here are a few ways you can do your part:

  • Get tested! It's pretty painless, free, private and doesn't take long at all. Even if you spend a while waiting, it's worth every minute to know your status. Need to find a testing place? You can click here to find a testing site by entering your zip code.
  • Encourage others to get tested, especially young women. From what I've seen in the past, getting tested has a stigma to it. I've heard comments as I & a group of other young women walked into a testing site located on my college campus that we must've been sleeping around with all of Jackson and only hoes needed to get tested. Not true. It only takes one unprotected encounter with one infected person to contract it. Whether you've had 1 or 100 partners, you need to be tested. Share this with others who may have some hesitation about going.  And share with your partner(s) too. We have to create a culture in which going to get tested is as normal as going to the doctor for our annual check up.
  • Adhere to the advice we've been given about AIDS since practically Day 1: do not have unprotected sex unless you are in a monogamous sexual relationship and both of you have been tested. Heck, even then wrap it up! If you or your partner have multiple partners, use condoms with each and every one of them. And if you use intravenous drugs (lawd... Imma hold my tongue on that for now) do not share needles.
Please, do your part so that next year and in the following years, the stats on NWGHAAD show that we are making strides to end this thing once and for all.

*For more statistics and resources, visit The Red Pump Project

Now, let me share a personal testimony. *cues organ*
The first time I got tested was one summer in college. A testing site was set up and one of my friends called and asked did I wanna go. I said sure, why not. When my turn came up, I filled out the questionnaire, answered the lady's questions as she drew the blood and went back to wait. I can't lie, I was so nervous! By the time I got called back for the results (about 10 minutes or so) I was actually shaking. The lady doing the testing read me up and down; she seriously ministered to me about the things I was doing (things I did not include on the questionnaire) and why I was doing it. I was moved to tears y'all, so much so that she had to come back out and tell the others that were with me, "It's okay, she's negative!" LOL Her words really struck a chord with me. I didn't change overnight, but the change did come, and I believe it was partially because of what she told me that day. I can't remember her name and may not even recognize her if I see her, but I am truly thankful for her.

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