From www.cdc.gov: “Of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, HIV and AIDS have hit African Americans the hardest. The reasons are not directly related to race or ethnicity, but rather to some of the barriers faced by many African Americans. These barriers can include poverty (being poor), sexually transmitted diseases and stigma (negative attitudes, beliefs, and actions directed at people living with HIV/AIDS or directed at people who do things that might put them at risk for HIV).”
Part of my responsibilities as a Communicable Disease Specialist is breaking the news to newly infected patients of their HIV status… not the easiest thing in the world to do as you may realize. In training for this position our instructor told us to remember that we as the counselors are not infecting the patient when we give them the news; however at times it is hard not to feel like that is exactly what you are doing. Depending on the client and the type of lifestyle they lead they may not very well know who infected them because they’ve had more partners than they care to remember so forever more it may be your face they recall when they think of their condition. It is up to me to make a difficult situation as easy as possible though there have been times when I wished like hell I was anywhere, but here.
In the year and a half that I’ve been doing this EVERY single face that has sat in front of me for the results looks just like mine. African American men and women alike account for every HIV positive result that I have delivered. The CDC’s statistics show that even though African Americans account for 13% of the US population we also account for 49% of the people that get HIV and AIDS. Even in 2008 we are not being careful with all that we know about this disease… well excuse me with all that some of us know about this disease… because some of us are still in the dark ages and forwarding every crazy email that they get about HIV being in the body for years, etc… hell, some of us are forwarding that email about herpes being in hot wax!!!! Listen up people check your facts go to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website and educate yourself, get tested every six months to a year, stop sitting back being afraid to do anything at all or listening to people who are just as clueless!!! Not knowing is not going to make you live longer nor is finding out you’re positive going to make you die faster. I’m not going to go so far as some people and say HIV is the new diabetes because it’s not, what it is though is a chronic condition that can be maintained with the proper diet, medication (if necessary) and exercise…you know pretty much all of the same things you do now to be healthy with a tad more diligence on your part.
I guess I am on my soapbox today because I recently had to deliver the news to a young man who seemed to be a nice young guy trying to do something with himself and his life and yet for some reason he had never taken a test before now. The entire situation made me sad and frustrated me at the same time that a young adult in this day and age is still not being tested on a regular basis.
I am saying all of this to say, Get tested… no matter your race/ethnicity just do it… stop being afraid or embracing this ignorance is bliss mentality… it’s not! This is your life we’re talking about!!!!