The “Monster” We Don’t Like to Discuss

8 03 2013

For years, I’ve been keenly aware about the need to make sure people know everything they can about HIV. I’m not sure why, but I think it began in my freshman year in college, when my state club decided to put together a safe sex awareness week (and subsequent party at the end of the week, of course), and I realized just how much we all didn’t know. It struck me because I came from a family that talked about sex (kinda) and a high school that actually taught sex education and not just abstinence, but still, I was just so ignorant to so much. And I wasn’t alone.

A few years later, I would get certified by Metro Teen AIDS and would go on to not only teach teenagers about the HIV virus, but also discuss HIV and the Black community in my thesis for grad school. That time was also pretty eye opening because I learned that too many of my teens knew someone who had been diagnosed HIV positive or had progressed to the AIDS stage, so much so that it had almost become common for them. I guess when the rate of infection is 1 in 20 in your city, that makes sense, but it’s still upsetting nonetheless.

Still, it took this past December for it to really hit home for me when a good friend of mine lost a family member to this deadly disease. Seeing this vibrant woman become someone that people spoke about in past tense and seeing the pain in my friend’s face made it so much more real. It was no longer about statistics or research, pictures or details of people I didn’t actually know. It was real. I knew her. She was a person that didn’t have to die.

She was a person.

And so when I heard about the Red Pump Project, I knew I had to get involved. On March 10th, they will be doing their part to create awareness around the subject of HIV and AIDS for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, but we have to all do our parts as well. We have to continue to create educated conversation around the subject. We have to work towards not discussing HIV as some taboo monster, but as a reality that way too many people are currently facing in this country and beyond.

Far too often, HIV is either one of those subjects people don’t want to talk about or it is forgotten amongst silly (and dangerous) conversations, such as whether or not women should carry condoms.¹ And because of that, far too many people are going throughout life not knowing basic information. Thinking things like Magic Johnson has been cured and only gay guys can get infected, that two condoms (at the same time) are better than one, and that shaking someone’s hand who is infected is dangerous.² Those ideas seem kind of petty until you learn that the New York police department is currently looking for a man who they believe has purposely infected over 240 people. Or until you actually know someone who’s been infected and you hear some of the comments people make. When those things happen, it becomes abundantly clear just how ill-informed we all are. 

So today, I charge you to ask yourself: do you know all the ways in which you can contract HIV? Do you know the difference between HIV and AIDS? Do you know who the largest growing affected population is in the United States? When was the last time you were tested? If you don’t know these answers, you need to do your part and research it (and get tested!). And if you do, I ask that you still commit to learning more. I plan to.

Not because it’s the politically correct thing to do, but because we don’t need to bury anymore people for lack of knowledge and lack of communication. It was a tragedy that happened in December to my friend’s family, because a woman’s life was cut short unnecessarily. But unfortunately, that tragedy happens every day, and it’ll continue to happen if we don’t educate ourselves and then do our part to make sure others are just as aware.

Be sure to click on the Rock the Red Pump banner on the sidebar of my blog for more information on the Red Pump Project.

1 For the record, if a man thinks I’m not a lady because I carry a condom, he can kick allllllllllllllllllll the rocks in the universe.

2 Yes, people still think these things.

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