I had a friend that always had a horrible cough. The doctor in me wondered why and often asked, “Why do you cough so much?” I was told it was asthma. Well they moved and we lost contact. One day I just decided to Google my friend and to my amazement, I found his obituary.
December 1st is World AIDS Day. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is an infectious disorder that suppresses the normal function of the immune system. Unfortunately, our community is the most affected by HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which is the virus that causes AIDS. The rate of new HIV infections in African Americans is 8 times that of whites based on population size. Although we only represent 12% of the US population, in 2010 it was estimated that we accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents. This is appalling, because this is completely preventable.
After some investigation, I located someone close to my friend via social media. This person informed me that my friend had been diagnosed HIV positive in 2005 (the same year we met) and had died due to complications from AIDS. This was the second time this illness had taken someone close to me. I was in shock to see an obituary with my friend’s name but more in shock when I found out the cause of death.
There has been a lot of research and there are many people like my friend Rae Lewis Thorton (first African American woman to appear on the cover of “Essence” magazine announcing her HIV+ status) that are living with AIDS for years. This is why it is so important for you to know your status and seek medical attention immediately. Delay in diagnosis or non-compliance can cost you your life. It is also important for you to use protection even if you receive a positive diagnosis because you could be re-infected and become sicker, or get another STD that further complicates your condition.
We as a community need to teach our children about HIV/AIDS and the ways it can be contracted, and more importantly prevented. Though many adolescents believe that pregnancy is the worst outcome of irresponsible sexual activity, HIV/AIDS is worse than pregnancy because it will never go away. Unfortunately some adolescents are under the belief that sexually transmitted diseases can not be passed thru oral sex. This is NOT true, they can be transmitted thru oral sex just like anal sex and sexual intercourse.
It is very important that we educate them on prevention and why it is very important to know your partners status. I suggest you both do an at-home test together or go to the clinic together. I have heard several stories where he/she said they were negative or presented fake results. If we start with the younger generation, by the time they are adults the rates of new infection could be decreased drastically.
BMWK, How often do you get tested? Do you know your status?