Thursday, March 10, 2011

Take our lives back: National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

In 1995, it was the first time I volunteered at an AIDS service organization (ASO) and in 2011, I'm still working at an ASO.  Most of those years, I was directing my efforts towards working with women to reduce OUR risk of HIV.  I love working with women but the health disparities facing black women made the work even harder.  Our attitudes towards our bodies, our lives was and is our barrier to living healthy.

We have to first agree to take responsibility for our choices. Forget the so called down low brother. Forget blaming others for our own actions.  I've come across many women who stayed in relationships when they knew their partner was cheating. I've come across many women who don't talk about condom use with their partner. I've come across many women who won't get tested for HIV and other STIs.  At some point, we have to look into the mirror and agree that our bodies, our lives are valuable and we need to take care of ourselves.

It should be said that gender inequality plays a major role in why HIV effects women so harshly. There are correlations between gender inequality and HIV infection rates.  Domestic Violence is also a risk factor for women.  We have to recognize that women have significant barriers to the prevention of HIV.  But I still challenge women not to make excuses to why we're in dangerous relationships, unable to talk about sexuality and sexual history with our partners.  We have to examine ourselves.  As much as we need men to understand the various ways they do contribute to the rates of HIV amongst women, women need to be on the forefront of fighting HIV by talking about it, becoming educated, and protecting themselves. 

HIV is preventable.  HIV is preventable.  HIV is preventable.  We must understand that we don't have to become HIV positive and if we do, we can still live a long life with proper treatment. 

Let's take back our lives and support one another.  We are able.

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