“When will it go out of style?” That’s the tagline written by the AIDS Foundation of Chicago to grab the attention of at-risk youth.
HIV/AIDS is spreading through our communities like wildfires, shattering the lives of millions. New HIV infections are 40 percent higher than previously estimated, with the majority of cases occurring among blacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I mentioned this report to a friend who attends an HBCU in one of the top five cities ranked to have the highest rate of HIV/AIDS diagnoses, and he said more than half off the blood donated during a blood drive was thrown out because, as he said, “it was no good.”
Blacks make up only 13 percent of this population, yet we account for almost half, 49 percent, of all new HIV cases.
Of all groups and classifications in the United States, HIV and AIDS have hit African- American women hard. We are at the focal point of this crisis, so why aren’t more black women paying attention to warnings about HIV? Who’s really to blame for this epidemic that’s killing so many of us?
As it stands, the “down-low brother” has become known as the one to blame. However, the annoyance and rage against men who secretly sleep with other men and the fact that their risky behavior is infecting multitudes of unsuspecting woman may prevent the spotlight from shining on other risk factors.
We must become smarter as black woman and hold ourselves accountable. We can’t be willing to accept the unacceptable. Accountability is the responsibility of everyone who wants to change the direction of this epidemic.
Every woman has a choice; we can’t continuously play the blame game and say the “brothers” are giving it to us. We have to be assertive and take responsibility for our bodies. After all, our lives are in our hands.
As the fight continues, we must recognize that the first step in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS is to stop the spread of denial and ignorance.
Here are the troubling facts as reported by the CDC:
- AIDS is the No. 1 killer among African American woman ages 25-34.
- Blacks accounted for 20,187 (50 percent) of the estimated 40,608 AIDS cases diagnosed in the United States.
- • Of all black female diagnoses, 74 percent came from heterosexual contact.
- The rate of AIDS diagnoses for black women was nearly 23 times the rate for white women and the rate for black men was eight times that of white men.
- Of all black men living with HIV/AIDS, the primary transmission category was sexual contact with other men.
Allow these statistics be our wake-up call: Always practice safe sex, always use condoms, take no one’s word, get tested with your partner and learn as much as you can about his/her past.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is Saturday. Get tested. Know your status. No matter your demographic, AIDS does not discriminate. It affects us all.