Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sex, Lies...and Death

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview a dynamic woman by the name of Rae Lewis Thornton on the radio show. Her name was very familiar to me because I remembered seeing her on magazine covers, and on news shows several years ago. I was captivated by her, as she was young, beautiful, and vibrant. Which is why many were so surprised to hear that she has AIDS. "How could it be?" they wondered. Because at the time, H.I.V and AIDS was viewed as a Gay White man's disease."  However, in recent times we have learned that  AIDS is the leading cause of death for Black women aged 25 to 34, and not the "Gay man's disease" that many had made it out to be.
I recalled being inundated with Safe Sex messages in the 80s and 90s. At my undergraduate college, the R.A. kept a small basket of condoms in the ladies room for those who needed them. There were posters, commercials, and discussions about H.I.V. and how it is spread. However, I don't see as much of this anymore. In fact, I polled several of my middle school students, and not one of them could tell me what H.I.V. stood for! Perhaps this lack of awareness is why there is such an increase in the number of infections. African Americans alone account for more then 60% of all reported cases of H.I.V. This is most alarming since African Americans only comprise 13% of the population!

Just in case you didn't know, here is how the virus works:

Two weeks after exposure to H.I.V., some people develop flu-like symptoms (many people do not). After this phase, people experience no symptoms. They look healthy, and there is no obvious physical indication that they are carrying the H.I.V. virus. However, the virus is hard at work destroying the immune system. On average, infected individual begin experiencing physical ailments 8 to 10 years after being exposed. As Rae shared, she lost a considerable amount of weight in a very short period of time. A person's diagnosis is changed to AIDS when their immune system becomes so suppressed that they no longer fight of opportunistic infections. With the help to medications, people are able to survive for longer periods of time. But it is definitely not a glamorous life.

So what can be done about this epidemic? Hmm….. well for starters, it important to talk about it. Nothing can be solved if people refuse to acknowledge what is occurring. Secondly, it is critical that you get tested for H.I.V. if you are sexually active. As Rae indicated, early diagnosis and treatment is key. Lastly, educate your children about the reality of AIDS, and teach them to take ownership of their bodies and their lives. Although sex may be fun….its not worth dying for!

Be safe and Stay Blessed,

Gaetane

I wrote this blog over two years ago. Sadly...it is still relevant. Today is World's AIDS Day, and a time when the nation is reminded of the epidemic that faces us. Nothing is better than knowing your status! Get tested...today and ANY other day:) 

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