I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I’m pretty sure you’re aware HIV/AIDS is affecting African American women at an alarming rate I’m also going to assume you, the reader, are an African American woman and you probably have some African American friends who are also aware of this trend. What I’m not certain of, though, is whether you’re serious about doing anything about it.
Yesterday I attended a blogger brunch hosted by OraSure, the makers of the in-home oral HIV test OraQuick which detects HIV antibodies in your system in as little as 20 minutes. Hosted by Jacque Reid, the purpose of the bruncheon was to brainstorm ways influencers can get the message of safe sex, and more so self-empowerment, to the people who need it most, and as the ladies sat around talking about this initiative an interesting point was brought up. For as much as ladies who lunch enjoy sitting around and talking to our friends about men and how they just got their back blown out or are thinking about giving so and so some, we often drop the ball when it comes to asking our girls how careful they’re being when they give it up.
As one woman went on about how a lot of friends don’t talk to each other about putting our sexual health first I thought, who are these women she’s talking about? And then I realized I just might be one of them. Just a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was catching me up on her life since I’d last seen her three months ago and part of that entailed informing me that she’d been pregnant by an 0n-again off-again something of a partner and sharing other promiscuous tales. Not wanting to damper the mood of the reunion, I hit her with a light “you need to do better,” but instead of really asking her what’s going on and telling her she needed to be careful (and invest in some condoms and an OraQuick test) I lamented to my other friend how I felt guilty for not saying more.
Ironically enough during the brunch another friend texted me joking that I wasn’t a good friend for not helping her pick out new makeup the last time I saw her. Feeling like there was no time like the present, I responded “While you’re calling me out, let me be a good friend now and ask when’s the last time you’ve been tested and do you and your husband get tested every year?” After asking whether I was implying her husband is cheating, which I was not, she said “Honestly, getting tested hasn’t crossed my mind in years which is soooo crazy because of the number of black women who get it.”
Crazy is most definitely the word to describe her thoughts, but I think common might be another one as well. Though we’ll go hard trying to find a friend a man and get all up in her business then, for some reason it can feel too personal to make our girls’ health a priority, though when she tells us about how some guy put it on her we’ll want all the juicy TMI details.
The reality is a conversation about sexual health with our girls doesn’t have to be super deep and it most certainly shouldn’t be awkward. Most times all we need to do is drop a little hint like “Hey I’m planning to get tested Tuesday, wanna come?” or “Just got back from the doc; I’m clean as a whistle.” Just the sheer mention of HIV/AIDs is usually enough to plant the seed and get people’s minds wandering about whether they really know their status, let alone that of the person they’re sleeping with. Let’s all agree to do better together and make it a priority to remind our girls to be safe.