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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- 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.
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Virgos are a sign of the mind. So, when you are looking at the love life and compatibility of a Virgo, you must start there. A Virgo’s heart is in their head, and they try to make decisions in love that are practical, well-thought-out, and that make sense to them. They love just as deeply as any other sign, but they also know that keeping their head on their shoulders will keep them out of trouble.
A Virgo wants a partner who is going to make life less stressful for them, and that only adds positively to their life. They will not commit to just anyone, and Virgo intellectualizes everything.
Yes, everything, including their relationships. They are known for their high standards, but this energy is matched by the dedication, loyalty, and thoughtfulness they bring into their relationships. There is a lot of thought that goes into who Virgo forms relationships with, and if you have caught the eye of a Virgo, you should feel special because that is no small feat.
Virgo Compatibility and Best Matches for Love
Virgo’s compatibility is unique because, at the end of the day, Virgo is a mutable sign, and they are always shifting and changing themselves. They value certain traditions in relationships, but they are also more progressive in how they go about things and who they attract. Virgos are looking for a partner who is intelligent, inspiring, and stable. They are the type of people to easily get the ick, so if you are interested in a Virgo, make sure you have it together before approaching them.
Virgo doesn’t have a hard time saying no, and they may have a lot of “no’s” before they find their person.
Once Virgo is in love and finds their person, however, it’s like a light has been sparked in them. A Virgo in a relationship brings out a whole different side of this earth sign, and when they feel safe enough to relax and just love, be and give, they are at their best.
Virgos are always there for their loved ones, they are smart, sexy, and they make great partners to have.
VIRGO + ARIES
Virgo and Aries are attracted to each other almost immediately. There is a fun, childlike wonder they both have when they are together, and they have a lot of insight to bring to the relationship. However, these two are often challenging each other as well. Aries wants to break down Virgo’s walls but may do so in a way that turns Virgo off. Virgo wants to keep up with Aries' energy levels and free-spirit nature, but Aries may find Virgo too wishy-washy to commit to.
Virgo and Aries see each other in very different ways than most others see them, and it’s hard to tell if they are absolutely in love with each other or if they secretly despise each other. If they can learn to work together rather than divide, then this relationship can bring a lot of abundance to each other’s lives.
VIRGO + TAURUS
Virgo and Taurus are a sweet couple. They are very enamored with each other, and they form a dedicated, loyal, and loving relationship. Virgo doesn’t have to try hard to win the affection of Taurus. The Virgo senses that they are accepted and loved by Taurus just as they are, and this is beautiful for Virgo. Taurus feels Virgo is strong, hilarious, and loving. Taurus admires Virgo's loyalty and the effort they put into their life and their relationships and wants to form a bond here.
The great thing about earth/earth sign relationships is that they get to know each other better than most, and they feel safe in each other’s presence. Their energy in the bedroom is magnetic, and they are often dancing in sync with each other. However, if a betrayal happens or trust is lost, this will be the detriment of the relationship in the long term.
VIRGO + GEMINI
This is a curious, exciting, and intense relationship. Gemini inspires Virgo but can also deeply trigger this earth sign through impulsiveness and irrationality. Gemini and Virgo are both ruled by Mercury, the planet of the mind. There is open communication in this relationship which is the couple’s strong point, but for Virgo, a lot of this tends to lead to overthinking. Gemini doesn’t make sense to Virgo, and Virgo doesn’t like when they can’t make sense of something.
Gemini doesn’t sense this from Virgo and just wants to have a conversation with the mind of someone who is so intriguing and unusual to them. Their openness mentally and in the bedroom are what fuels this relationship, but there may not be enough compatibility and stability here in the long run. The relationship between Virgo and Gemini is often better as a friendship or business relationship at the end of the day.
VIRGO + CANCER
Virgo and Cancer form a loving and sweet relationship. Cancer is instantly intrigued by Virgo and finds them endearing. Virgo can sense Cancer’s attraction toward them right away and want to learn more about this mysterious water sign. Virgo is interested in Cancer’s emotional world and learns a lot from Cancer about their own emotions. Although Cancer’s heart may feel too overpowering for Virgo’s rational mind and Virgo too analytical for Cancer’s openness, this usually isn’t a dealbreaker for them.
This is a relationship that is in it for the long term, and it often just works. What they both provide or want to provide in the relationship fits with one another, and this is a relationship that continues to get better with time. They are both best friends and lovers, and if they live together, their home would be clean, safe, and comfortable.
VIRGO + LEO
This is a passionate, rejuvenating relationship. Virgo and Leo are royalty, and when they come together, they exude this type of regalness and empowerment. They are both highly self-aware individuals, and where Leo expands energy, Virgo creates it. Virgo loves to be needed and valued, and Leo wants to be admired and adored. Virgo feels purposeful in this relationship as their attention to detail, dedication, and genuine acts of service are all acknowledged by Leo.
Leo feels like they are truly being seen in this relationship, as they feel Virgo’s keen eye and attentive love.
The only downfall of this connection is that Leo needs to lead, and Virgo doesn’t choose between leading or following but absolutely doesn’t prefer the latter. Virgo isn’t as submissive as Leo may assume at first, and perspectives and egos can clash here. If these two are looking for a power couple in life, however, this could definitely be it.
VIRGO + VIRGO
Virgo and Virgo are an odd yet beautiful couple. Virgos are one of the only signs who respect their own sign but aren’t necessarily attracted to the energy as well. No two Virgos are exactly alike, and although Virgos will see the similarities between each other, they will also feel like their own weaknesses are being highlighted in the process, and this is an uncomfortable mirror of a relationship.
Virgos love to make sense of things, yet are very hard to make sense of. In a relationship where both signs are mutable, it can be hard to stabilize the energy and grasp what is going on or commit. They will have funny banter and intellectual conversations and will tend to each other’s needs but may feel like something is missing between the connection at the end of the day.
VIRGO + LIBRA
Virgo and Libra don’t seem fitting at first until you dive a little deeper. Virgo and Libra uniquely understand each other. Libra highlights Virgo’s beauty and wants them to recognize more of their inner confidence and self-assurance. Virgo helps Libra think rationally and make decisions that benefit rather than create more drama. The problem, however, is that they may start to feel that they are stepping on each other’s toes.
Neither sign is too confrontational, and this relationship can be filled with a lot of beating around the bush and passive-aggressiveness. When they’re sweet together, they’re sweet. When things aren’t going well, they may go too low and hurt one another. This relationship has a lot of potential, but work will need to be done to make sure things don’t end in heartbreak here.
VIRGO + SCORPIO
Virgo and Scorpio are a match made in heaven, most of the time. No relationship is perfect, but it comes pretty close for both of them. They are both very intuitive, loving, and perceptive individuals, and they bring a lot of the same energy into the relationship. They have a genuine connection they don’t have to fake or work too hard to obtain, and these two love to spend time together and be in each other’s company.
Virgo and Scorpio are a lot alike, but they have enough differences to keep things exciting and help each other learn and grow as well.
The love between the two is felt right away, and you often see Virgo and Scorpio pairings in close family and friend relationships, as well as long-term romantic couples. There is a safeness felt in this relationship, and if they are both in a healthy, evolved stage in life, this relationship is like magic for both of them.
VIRGO + SAGITTARIUS
This couple isn’t one you see often, and when you do see it, you can tell how out-of-the-ordinary, yet so fitting, this relationship is. Think Beyoncé and Jay-Z; this is a great example of a Virgo and Sagittarius relationship. It works because Sagittarius opens up a new world to Virgo and brings out their fun side. They help Virgo not take things too seriously, and this is a couple who knows how to have fun together.
Sagittarius is inspired by Virgo as well. Being a philosophical sign, they admire Virgo’s intellect and belief systems, seeing Virgo as someone who at times, is a little uptight but also respects their stature and the way they handle themselves. This isn’t an easy, compatible relationship, but if they are willing to work together and learn about each other, it can work out.
VIRGO + CAPRICORN
Virgo and Capricorn are soulmates. This is a relationship where they naturally get each other, and they flow in sync with one another. There is a special bond between a Virgo and a Capricorn, and this bond usually lasts long term. Neither sign gives too much energy into things they don’t think are going anywhere, and with each other, they give a lot. There is something to say about earth, and earth sign relationships, however, things can get stale or stagnant after a while.
The comfort they feel between each other is unforgettable, however, their similarities may be their downfall unless they aren’t actively growing as individuals and in the relationship as well. All this relationship needs is some extra spice, fun times, and more emotional openness with each other, and it has all the chances of making it down the aisle if that is what they are both looking for.
VIRGO + AQUARIUS
Virgo and Aquarius have a mental connection more than anything. They get where each other is coming from, and with the high intellect they both have, this relationship is full of conversation, laughter, and friendship. Aquarius values a mental connection the most in their relationships, which is why they are often very intrigued with Virgos.
Virgo, however, tends to need more than Aquarius is willing to give emotionally.
Virgo needs alone time and handles emotions more rationally, as does an Aquarius, but Virgo is more sensitive to matters of the heart and does need more reassurance here. This pairing may be better off as friends unless they can bridge the gap between each other that is deeply felt.
VIRGO + PISCES
Virgo and Pisces have a unique relationship full of magic, dreams, and also some tough lessons. They are sister signs, meaning these two are on the exact opposite sides of the zodiac wheel, and they have a special kind of relationship. They are basically everything the other is not. They go together like yin and yang, but they can also deeply trigger each other as well due to the opposition. The positives of this relationship are that they are both givers and they are intuitive of each other's needs.
Virgo and Pisces are both very selfless and compassionate in their relationships, and they give each other this type of understanding and attentiveness in love. There is something genuine about the connection between this pair that makes you believe in the impossible.
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