The “Her” In HIV

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Recently, I was asked to promote National HIV Testing Day (June 27th) and came across the startling statistics regarding Black women. So of course, I got to thinking: Why are our numbers continuously rising when the overall numbers of those infected have remained somewhat steady, if not declining? And despite what most people would have you to believe, Black women don’t face the greatest risk  just from ‘down-low brothers;’ the biggest danger of all is “US.”

Sex is one of the most basic, natural functions for human beings. And of course, the force by which we continue to reproduce. But the reality is, most of us are afraid to even discuss our true feelings or desires on the subject. Sadly, many times we think that in order to get a man or keep a man, you have to have sex – which couldn’t be further from the truth. We often give in when we really don’t want to, and tragically, even get convinced to partake in unprotected sex because we believe it will make our partner happy – and oh yeah, “it feels better.”

Let’s be brutally honest here, how many of us just don’t enjoy sex at all? If you think that’s a stretch, keep this in mind: earlier this year, Fitness Magazine surveyed 2,400 women to see how many would give up sex for a full year in order to be skinny, and the answer was a remarkable 51 percent.

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When it comes to pleasure and what works for us, Black women (and women in general for that matter) often keep quiet. Instead of discussing what pleases us, we tolerate unsatisfactory sexual experiences, which can eventually lead to dangerous outcomes.  If we don’t speak up, we may look for pleasure elsewhere, thus putting our partner and the partner of the person we are cheating with at risk for all sorts of STDs. Miscommunication – or lack of communication – not only leads to bad relationships, but it can also lead to risky behavior.

And finally, in an era when women do virtually everything men do, it should come as no surprise that we have begun to behave in a manner that’s in line with what we believe is traditional male thinking. Whether we are too busy to maintain a relationship, or simply enjoy the idea of having multiple partners and options, many of us are behaving in the same fashion that we claim men have for decades. But because we are still more likely to compromise, we aren’t protecting ourselves the way men do, and thus are on the losing end of the stick more than our male counterparts.

Every 35 minutes, a woman tests positive for HIV in this country, and Black women account for some 66% of all of these new cases. Those are some down right scary stats. If we want to play with the big boys, it’s time we as strong, intelligent, independent women start speaking up, share our likes and dislikes, stop blaming down-low brothers, begin protecting ourselves each and every time, remain honest to ourselves and our partners, and know that it’s ok to just say ‘no thanks’.  That is, after all, the only way we can truly stop this deadly disease and save ourselves – and the next generation.

P.S. – the down-low brothers (AND sisters) are not off the hook … I’ll address that at a later time …

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