There are two types of discussions about HIV that take place in the gen-pop of Black communities. One, how Magic Johnson holds the cure or about the type of person who contracts this virus. Two is the rhetoric that this is a disease one contracts when dealing with a gay man or when gay. Neither dialogues are helpful in educating communities on HIV.
You'll hear many experts and advocates say that HIV is no longer a death sentence and while this is true, I imagine that none of us are flying a Goodyear blimp in the blue skies that says "come for me." No one asks for HIV. No one. Which makes it all the more important that we stay educated on the topic in a way that is sex positive.
Because despite the 14 million people who had to die due to the government's ignorance and bias throughout the 80s and well into the 90s, there always seems to be a new headline about an influx of HIV diagnosis in one black-ish community or another and part of me feels that has a lot to do with the way we've continuously stigmatized it. This can be easy to do when there isn't proper sex education within many communities. We're having too many of the wrong discussions and not enough of the right ones.
But I've never been one to sit around demanding change while refusing to be part of the solution, so let's chat! Let's debunk what you believe to be true about HIV and get the 411 on preventative measures, plus what a diagnosis means.
Human immunodeficiency virus is what those three often bolded letters stand for in the acronym HIV. According to Dr. Cedrina Calder, it hurts the immune system "by attacking specific cells. The virus affects the body's natural ability to fight infection." She warns, "If the virus is left untreated, the illness can progress to a condition called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS."
HIV can be detected by your gynecologist or urologist using one of the three methods: Nucleic Acid Test, Antigen test, or an Antibody test. Rapid and home tests are normally antibody tests that can be conducted with an oral swab or a blood sample. For those with a healthy suspicion of home test, like myself, Dr. Calder says they are 92 percent sensitive. In other words, it will be effective for about 92 percent of those who use it. The nucleic acid test is a more thorough test that doctors may opt for if you test positive.
Is There A Cure For HIV?
The origin of HIV has been a mystery for the most part. While the CDC suggests that it may have been present in Africa since the late 1800s, it didn't knowingly make its way to the United States until the late 1970s. When it first ravaged communities, it was thought to only be a disease that affected the gay community -- the name given to it during that time was Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID).
It took thousands of people dying annually and a decade of activism from groups such as ACT UP for the Government to intervene and pass policy for FDA approved medications for the infection.
As it stands there is no cure for HIV, there are only treatments. These treatments have become increasingly more effective, increased life expectancy, and decreased the likelihood of HIV progressing to AIDS. As previously mentioned, these treatments make it possible to live a healthy life with an equally healthy sex life after being infected through consistency and maintaining a low detectability rate, making it more difficult to transmit the virus.
Exposure to HIV
It can't be stressed enough how important it is to be tested regularly for HIV. Your annual visit can suffice unless you engage in "risky" sexual behaviors, and then it is recommended that you get tested more frequently.
Risky sexual behavior doesn't necessarily mean engaging in sex with multiple partners but can simply mean you engage in anal sex regularly. According to Dr. Calder, those who participate in anal sex or are the proclaimed "bottom" are at greater risk due to how easy it is for the infection to pass through rectal tissue. This has to do with the lack of lubrication provided in the area, as well as the fact that the tissue there has a lot of blood vessels.
It's worth noting that HIV cannot be detected immediately after exposure and while it often takes anywhere from least three to 12 weeks, there are some cases where the antibodies take longer to detect.
That said, should you be exposed to HIV unknowingly (this might occur in the case of sexual assault), you have a 72-hour window to get to your doctor for PEP or Post-exposure Prophylaxis. If this occurs over a weekend or any given day where you cannot be seen by your physician, it is critical that you get to the ER to begin treatment.
Living with HIV is more than possible with technological advances, but it does require a shift in your lifestyle. In fact, Dr. Calder reminds us that although there is no guarantee that HIV won't develop into AIDs, with early and proper treatment along with a healthy lifestyle you can "significantly decrease the chance of the infection progressing into AIDs." She further elaborated that this healthy lifestyle might look like limiting alcohol and drug intake, fitness, and a generally clean diet.
HIV Today: Proactive PrEParation
If you are HIV-negative but currently engage or plan on engaging in sex with an HIV-positive partner, then Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (or PrEP) is a pill regimented daily that helps to prevent the transmission of HIV. For those engaging in vaginal sex, the pill takes up to three weeks to work.
PrEP solely protects against HIV and it's not recommended that couples stop using condoms or other forms of birth control in lieu of taking PrEP. Furthermore, we know that there is no form of contraception that's 100 percent effective outside a laboratory but it can be 90 percent effective at reducing the risk of transmission through sex.
According to PrEP, the pill is also viable option for women who wish to become pregnant with their partner who is positive.
The Ryan White Care Act AIDS Drug Assistance Program has been around since 1990 and helps low-income people afford medications. And now, with the inclusion of Obama Care and the Affordable Care Act, these medications are more accessible than ever. At this juncture, Medicaid and most insurances cover the cost of the PrEP pill, but if you don't have access to those programs, there are organizations you can reach out to for financial assistance.
However, as Dr. Calder points out, it's these type of socioeconomic disparities that have continuously made HIV an epidemic amongst those who identify at the intersection of black, gay, and male.
It must be said that by perpetuating stereotypes, the groups impacted by any disease only become pushed further into the margins, making it more difficult to take preventative measures. Thus, why it's so important for us to have these discussions and create a safe space for people to address genuine concerns, correct misinformation, and further expound upon the dialogue.
Featured image by Getty Images.
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- Living With HIV | HIV Basics | HIV/AIDS | CDC ›
- AIDS: homophobic and moralistic images of 1980s still haunt our ... ›
- HIV Stigma and Discrimination | AVERT ›
- Information on Non-reactive (Negativ)e HIV Test Results ›
- Life After an HIV Diagnosis: Getting Support and Medical Care ›
- Frequently Asked Questions - APRI ›
- HIV viral load: What it means, detection, and CD4 levels ›
- What does it mean to have HIV today? - Orlando Sentinel ›
- HIV and AIDS: Overview, causes, symptoms, and treatments ›
- Charlie Sheen's HIV Diagnosis: What HIV Means Today | Time ›
Motor City native, Atlanta living. Sagittarius. Writer. Sexpert. Into all things magical, mystical, and unknown. I'll try anything at least once but you knew that the moment I revealed that I was a Sag.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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