(originally published 12/1/2009)
Black people- HIV/AIDS is killing our community. It stopped being a gay white man's disease, years ago. However, from the beginning it was killing Black people. Black women were passing the germ on to their newborn babies in breast milk, and they were dying. Black people in Africa continue to die with whole generations wiped out and children left without parents. The white gay community mobilized to deal with the situation while Black people fell through the cracks due to their own prejudices and ignorance, coupled with an inherently racist health system that continues today.
The HIV virus is not killing white America, so much anymore, but it is killing Black America....Let's bring it even closer....It is affecting Black straight America...through Black straight women, who refuse to hold their sexual partners accountable.
In Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Ohio....The number of Black women living with HIV/AIDS has doubled since 1998, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Across America, Black women, most of them straight, make up 61% of the newly diagnosed cases, while Black men make up 46% of all newly diagnosed cases.
The Black community in America is on target to be wiped out just like in Africa.
I've been writing and doing radio programs about this since the disease surfaced in 1984. I lost 11 friends in one year and 2 relatives before I stopped counting. I continue to write about it, and to talk about it, but it feels like I'm spitting into the wind and nobody is paying attention.
The fact of the matter is that.....
HIV is the number one cause of death for Black women between the ages of 25 and 34. The same is true for Black men between the ages of 35 and 44.
My people, you are dying because of fear, denial and ignorance. It's not about drug use and junkies sharing needles. That does happen, but primarily the cause is unprotected sex. Sex without condoms. A condom can stop the spread of the disease. No one is saying become celibate....just become sensible about what you do when you do decide to get your groove on.
Anyone who has sex with someone who refuses to use a condom is committing suicide...a long painful and stupid suicide.
As Black people we're funny. We talk about white people letting their dogs kiss them in the face. We worry about the germs from the dog's tongue. Yet, dog germs on your face won't kill you. But sex without a jimmy will and does over and over and over again. But nobody's talking about that.
Straight Black women in particular are in denial and are paying the price. Maintaining a jimmy-less relationship with their man when he comes out of prison is a big factor, especially since many black men engage in man on man sex while in jail, then take it home to their women.
Another major factor is men who routinely have sex with other men, yet don't consider themselves gay and still sleep with women. She ends up infected since male to female transmission is the easiest form of transmission.
Ohio Corrections tests all men going into the system, however they don't test them upon release.
The sad fact is that statistics show that most Black straight women are infected by their husbands and boyfriends.
So what can be done. Well, it's a matter of the entire community coming out the closet about the problem. And by this I mean, Black Churches, Black civil rights organizations, and Black people need to admit to themselves that it is not a white disease or a black disease....It is a disease that is colorblind and is killing us.
Everyone should be tested. I have been, a couple of times. It is a simple blood test that you can have done while you're having other blood work done. Your doctor can give you a card that you can carry in your wallet. The information just says...blood type..rh factor and HIV positive or negative.
People are living longer and longer because the medicine is finally catching up. HIV is no longer an instant death sentence.
So do yourself a favor on World AIDS Day, get tested and ask your partner to get tested, too.