Delicately purposed for the nation’s Black women; brown girls, black girls; light-skinned, brown-skinned, and dark-skinned:
There are so many things happening in the world that demand our attention, but HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) should have our undivided attention every day. HIV/AIDS is relentlessly infecting and taking the lives of our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, nieces, and friends.
While we (Black women) are the second largest group that is heavily affected by HIV/ AIDS and account for 13 percent of all new HIV infections, many of us have become desensitized to HIV and its presence in our communities.
Undiagnosed infection is arguably the most significant factor fueling the HIV epidemic. Far too many people, especially people of color, are diagnosed too late to fully benefit from the available life-extending treatments. If left untreated, an undiagnosed HIV infection can lead to AIDS.
Results from a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that the percentage of Americans who rank HIV as a major health problem is substantially lower today than it was a decade ago. Studies show that among some populations with the highest rates of infection, many do not recognize their risk or believe that HIV is no longer a serious health threat. For this reason, we must remind younger generations of the seriousness and unapologetic nature of HIV and thus, the importance of prevention.
The upsetting rates at which Black women and girls are disproportionately infected with HIV should serve as a call to action for all of us. We must advocate for and educate our communities about the ways to protect ourselves and others.
The CDC’s three year Expanded Testing Initiative (ETI) provided nearly 2.8 million HIV tests in 25 of the U.S’s most affected areas. With this test, 18,432 people learned they were HIV-positive. In recognition of National HIV Testing Day, June 27th, I urge women and men of all races, especially my fellow Black women to get tested. KNOW YOUR STATUS! Currently, there are 1 in 7 Americans who do not know they are living with HIV. By getting tested you can ensure that you are not infected and unknowingly transmitting the virus to others.
Going forward, we must not remain complacent. We must continue to educate ourselves about the health issues that affect us and inhibit our progress as a community. Understand the urgency of HIV testing, know your status and eliminate risky behaviors!
P.S. Walgreens, in partnership with Greater Than AIDS, is offering free HIV tests across the country. Click here to find a participating store near you.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). CDC – Today’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic – HIV Prevention in the U.S. – NCHHSTP Newsroom. Retrieved June 16, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/HIVFactSheets/Epidemic/index.htm