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Aids and African Americans

By Floyd Miller



We have to talk about itBy Rachel Smith, MABig Country Aids ResourcesHIV is one of those things we would all like to believe will not touch our lives. Like cancer, or drunk drivers, or teen pregnancy. It?s one of those things, like the boogey man in the dark closet, that we would prefer to keep the door shut on, and not look too closely. Because if we don?t see it, don?t acknowledge it, then it can?t frighten us or hurt us, we tell ourselves.It?s a nice illusion,{{more}} and a common human response to problems that threaten to overwhelm us. But a wise man once said that ?Knowledge is power?, and it?s true for HIV, just as it is for the boogey man in the closet. ##M:Read more##If you open the closet door, and turn on the light, you can see that there?s nothing in there but a few shirts and jeans, your grandmother?s old fur coat, and a box of fashion dolls on the floor, that your daughter doesn?t play with any more.If you take a good look at HIV, you can see that you don?t have to get it, if you don?t already have it. And if you have it, there are many more tools for living with it -longer, stronger, healthier and happier ? than there have ever been before.June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. At Big Country AIDS Resources , we urge everyone who?s never had an HIV test, and has done something that might put them at risk for this disease, to have a test. Just one, anyway. And maybe more than one, if the risk is ongoing.And there?s the rub, with HIV. It might be easier to talk about, less scary to learn about, if you could get it from mosquitoes. But because the ways that it?s most commonly transmitted involve either sexual activity, or drug use, or both, it?s even more scary than most chronic or potentially life threatening diseases. HIV often carries with it a burden of blame, shame, and isolation.?If I hadn?t slept with that guy ???If I hadn?t put that needle in my arm???If I?d only worn a condom???If I hadn?t trusted him when he said I was the only one???If I?d only listened to ??We all make mistakes. We pay a high price for some of them. But the price climbs higher, hits harder, when the disease goes undiagnosed.HIV is on the rise in minority populations: African Americans, women, older adults. There is a fairly steady rate of infection, of about 44,000 new cases a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Half of those are among African Americans. A majority of those are women. Why is that?Maybe it?s because we women don?t have enough to manage in our lives. Maybe it’s because HIV is one more thing to worry about, and if we don?t look at it, we can tell ourselves that it isn?t there. The problem with that is ? it often is there.It may not be there, in the man that we love and trust. It may not be there, if we?re not in the middle of an addiction. Maybe it?s not there, right our where we can see it.But it may be there, in the niece or nephew who knows that he or she is HIV positive, and is afraid to tell the family. It may be there, in the church member who is ashamed of his or her past, and can?t find a way to forgiveness or acceptance. It may be there, in the coworker who conceals his or her HIV status because they don?t want to be fired without a reason. It may be there, in the neighbor who doesn?t want anyone to know, because he or she doesn?t want to be summarily evicted. Again.Educate yourself ? and educate your children. Ask them what they learn about HIV in school, or from their friends. Know the facts: HIV can be transmitted in four body fluids, only: blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. HIV transmission can be prevented, in a sexually active person, through consistent, correct use of barrier methods . If a person is addicted and using needles to inject drugs, then using only new needles, or at the least, bleached ones. Can help to prevent transmission.See? Told you this was difficult to talk about.But talking is the first, essential step towards prevention. Talking allows education. Talking is required, for honest communication between partners, between parent and child.We have to talk about it. We have to talk about the fact that even here in little ol?Abilene, a disproportionate number of minorities are affected by this disease. We have to talk about it, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Even when we must address topics that most of us don?t consider appropriate dinner conversation, we must talk about it. Even when we are forced to acknowledge the mistakes that sometimes lead us to learn and grow as people, we must talk about it.We have to talk about it.June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. Give us a call, here at BCAR for a test appointment, for more information, to schedule a presentation for your church group or civic club or nest family barbecue, for goodness sake.You?ll be glad you did.

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