Let’s talk about sex, baby!
By Jovonni R. Spinner
Black women are so many things- smart, powerful, and resilient. We achieve greatness despite being constantly challenged in every area of our lives. And, unfortunately, one of those areas where we continue to be negatively impacted is HIV/AIDS. Even though infection rates have declined by 20% from 2011-2015, Black women still have the 4th highest rate of new infections in the United States. In 2016, 4,560 black women were diagnosed with HIV, which represents 61% of all new HIV diagnoses among women. And, black women continue to be diagnosed with HIV at higher rates relative to White and Hispanic women.
But it is not all doom and gloom. There are easy ways to protect yourself. One way to protect yourself is to engage in safe sex practices, like using condoms. But, another way is to know your status and to know your partner’s status. The best way to prevent the spread of HIV within our community is to start having candid conversations about HIV testing.
The good news is that getting tested is now easier than ever! You can choose one of these three options to get tested today:
Go to your doctor-They will draw a sample of blood and send it off to the lab.
In home- You can collect a sample at home and send it off to a lab for testing.
In home-This is the easiest and quickest method. You collect a sample in your home and get your results in about 20 minutes. The test (Oraquick) can be bought from any pharmacy and costs about $40.00.
Ultimately, we need to take the stigma out of testing. Testing should be a part of your lifestyle, so include it as a part of your regular wellness check-up. Each year, your doctor screens you for diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood pressure. Why not add an STD screening since they are already drawing blood? And, get yourself and your partner tested before engaging in a new sexual relationship. In the meantime, if you need to find a testing site near you, text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948).
It is no secret that most black women get infected through heterosexual sex. Often, women believe that they are in a monogamous relationship and feel their risk for contracting HIV is low or non-existent. I encourage you to be brave and start the conversation today and talk to your partner(s) about testing. Encourage your friends and family to tested too.
Sex should be fun, passionate, and a mutually fulfilling experience. There is no need to add extra stress by being in the dark about your HIV status. The best way to prevent HIV is to not be exposed to the virus. Never be afraid to advocate for yourself, protect yourself, and most importantly nurture yourself. Your body is your temple- protect and honor it by engaging in safe sex and know your status by getting tested today.
Jovonni R. Spinner, MPH, CHES is a seasoned public health professional with over 15 years of experience. She is a visionary public health professional committed to improving health equity through research, communications, multi-sector partnerships, and leadership coaching. She has a breadth of knowledge ranging from public health program design, implementation, and evaluation; health policy; health communications; and health promotion and education, along with subject matter expertise in disease areas (e.g. cardiovascular, respiratory, and vaccine preventable diseases). She is currently pursuing her DrPH from Morgan State University. Her research interests include women’s health, mental health, obesity, and nutrition. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter @jovonnispinner.