According to Forbes in 2017, black women were emerging as leaders across all industries: academia, government, and nonprofit organizations. Countless media outlets also reported that black women are the fastest group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. Also, let's not forget about the faith we possess, the workout regimens we are incorporating, our spiritual journeys to mental health peace, and most importantly, exemplifying #BlackGirlMagic.
If black women were a high school superlative, we would be "Best All Around". However, there is one area we are losing in. According to the CDC, black women have HIV rates that are three times higher than their non ethnic-counterparts. According to HIV.gov, in a study conducted in 2016, black women made up over 61% of new women's HIV diagnosis cases in the US.
We are drinking water, glowing up, and successfully securing the bag, but what about our HIV status? What about our blood health?
Black America is nearly 12% of the U.S. population, but makes up 44% of new HIV diagnoses. 1 in 7 people with HIV are unaware of their HIV infection. Ages 25-34 is the highest age group newly diagnosed with HIV, followed by the 20-24 age group as second, and then ages 35-44 following as third. Our blood health and immune system must be prioritized so that we are able to do all the things that we as super women can do.
What some of us don't realize is that it only takes one partner who is HIV positive to expose you to the disease, someone you trust and love, someone who might not know their status at all.
Let's be clear, everyone is at risk of contracting HIV by having unprotected sex.
That's why as women we must not be afraid to take ownership of our sexual health and well-being, just like we are fearless in many other areas in our life. We must stand up for ourselves, love ourselves even more than we already do, and protect our bodies and our immune systems. We can do this by simply asking our partners about their HIV status and encouraging them to wrap it up, or to go get tested together as a couple, especially if no condom usage is your sexual normal.
When engaging in any kind of sexual relationship, you can't forget that communication is key. Don't be afraid to ask your partner to go tested with you or wear a condom if you don't know his status. Not knowing your status can sound like:
"I dont know."
"I got tested two years ago, I'm good."
"I know for sure I'm good."
All great examples of what is NOT AN HIV STATUS.
If you are sexually active, it is recommended that you are tested at least once a year, but twice a year is great, and every three months is even more amazing. HIV takes up to 90 days to show antibodies on a test, so it's important to check-in as often as possible if you've recently had sex with a partner whose status you're unsure of.
HIV tests are free and there are a number of ways you can go about going to get tested. I personally like the mobile testing vans you see out and about with no appointment needed, but there are many testing events and of course healthcare providers in your area who can provide these tests at no cost. Choose what's best for you and get tested.
You deserve to know your status because you're worth it.
You can also visit www.CDC.gov/ActAgainstAIDS for tons of resources that will answer many of your questions, like
- Where to find a place to get free confidential testing?
- What to do if you tested negative? (Because there are things you should continue to do to stay with a negative result.)
- Where to find PrEP, the once a day pill to prevent HIV if taken daily, and how you can talk to your healthcare provider about your prevention options.
- What to do if you test positive for HIV and what are the next health steps? (Because you don't want to wait to the last minute of treating your HIV that it has transitioned to AIDS.)
I am personally taking a front seat when it comes to black women and our sexual health with Project A & M. Inc.: #DoingIT, which I created in memory of my mother and twin brothers who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS complications.
#DoingIT is a national HIV testing and prevention campaign within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Act Against AIDS initiative to help reduce HIV stigma around testing. My organization encourages all adults, 18-64, to start Doing It (aka) testing for HIV.
With that knowledge, we hope to equip those individuals with the tools to move forward accordingly.
So, what do you say? Are you ready to know your status and take ownership of your sexual health? Get tested and join the #DoingIt movement today!
Featured image by Shutterstock