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Blood collection tube with HIV test. The doctor's hand holds a positive blood sample for the infection. Red Ribbon HIV, AIDS. episode on HIV in the Black community

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In this special episode of Black Health 365, fitness coach Jackie Paige and wellness coach Britt Daniels team up with two other members of the Urban One Family, Dierdre Speaks and Anna DeShawn of Black HIV in the South: How Did We Get Here? As Paige and Daniels continue to tackle health issues that face the Black community, this episode focused on HIV in the Black community has been a long time coming and this is the perfect foursome to tackle the subject.

The main topic of this episode is why HIV is so prevalent in the south — particularly still today, in 2023. For reference, 52 percent of all new HIV diagnoses are in the south. Only 13 states make up the south, and yet, over half of new HIV diagnoses are happening in that region. What’s it all about?

There are a number of practical, political and cultural matters behind the prevalence of HIV in the south. Politically, the availability and limitations of Medicaid coverage is one. But, as they discuss in the episode, silence is also a big part of the problem – silence on the part of those impacted by HIV/AIDs, and silence on the part of the medical community.

Speaks, who has lived with HIV for 22 years, expressed that doctors are not speaking to their patients about HIV enough. They aren’t sharing information about PrEP, testing and other preventative measures. The issue is further aggravated by the mistrust the Black community has of the medical community, due to the very real judgment and bias they’ve experienced. Even within friend groups and families, simply speaking about HIV is taboo. There’s this idea that HIV is for “other people,” even though, as DeShawn reminds us, “It impacts somebody that you know and you don’t even know it.”

The group also touches on this cultural factor: within the Black community, there is the idea that it will be “obvious” when a Black man is fluid or gay. As such, they say that many straight Black women don’t believe they need to be taking PrEP.

HIV hasn’t just been marginalized and stigmatized in conversation – it’s practically been removed from routine medical treatment and examinations. Speaks brings up that HIV has always been separated from everything else. When you see a doctor, they’ll run dozens of tests without you asking – but if you want an HIV test, you have to ask. It’s as is sexual health is “extra,” but, “Sexual health is a part of our overall well-being,” says Speaks.

Listen to the full episode to hear more of the wisdom and insight DeShawn and Speaks have to offer in this important Urban One podcast network collaboration.

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