A sweet and familiar song begins to play as various people throughout the crowd begin to stand with large white posters in their hands. As they walked the room slowly, I felt the tears begin to well up in my eyes. I was trying my best to keep it together. The presenter said that each year those infected by HIV/AIDS participates in a presentation in order to save someone else’s life. I didn’t know what to expect, but this was powerful.

The first poster that crossed my eye view was held by a beautiful woman who looked around my mother’s age. She was fit, with gorgeous hair and was well put together. Her poster said, “I daily fight depression, suicide and rejection”.

Trying to recover from the subtle blow that my psyche was dealt after reading that first poster, immediately, my eyes flashed to the next poster as the first poster left my eye view and it said,

  • ...“I’m scared”
  • and another said...“Wanting help and support but feeling helpless”
  • then another...“Always dealing with the fear of disclosing my status to someone I care about”
  • ...“Afraid to start new relationships/friendships”
  • ...“I can’t believe this is happening to me”

Their reality broke my heart, and I felt ashamed about the little places in life that I find to be extremely uncomfortable. How could I dare be dismayed about anything in my current life when there were people fighting to live each day a fight that would continue for the rest of their lives?

IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP

I’m writing this in an effort to continue to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS. Let’s not get apathetic and careless about it. It still does exist! The moment we feel like it is no longer an issue is the moment when we find ourselves blindsided. Although life expectancy is much better than what it was years ago, people are still dying every day due to exposure and never being tested. When was the last time you got tested?

 

THE STIGMA

The stigma that HIV is a disease caused by homosexual men is unfounded.  In fact there are studies to suggest that it was founded in Europe, Africa and even the U.S.  However, try not to get hung up on these details. Stigmas keep progress at bay when it comes to HIV. They serve the purpose of keeping us silent when we should be talking about it. Don't let stigmas surrounding HIV separate us when we should be uniting and fighting for a cure and caring more about how it affects all of us.

THE MISCONCEPTION

There’s a misconception that HIV/AIDS is a disease that just affects males who engage with sexual activity with members of the same sex. Well, we now know that HIV/AIDs affects women in a major way due to various reasons.

Youth and adults alike are contracting this disease due to the lack of understanding that a person does not LOOK like they have HIV/AIDS. What a person looks like has no bearing on their status and rather or not you should lay with them without protection.

Another misconception is that people still believe that aids can be contracted like any airborne illness. You cannot touch someone and contract HIV. It is contracted through the exchange of certain bodily fluids – blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk according to the Center for Disease Control. While HIV is mainly spread by having sex. It can also be transmitted by the sharing of needles with someone who has HIV.

THE REALITY

In 2012, HIV/AIDS claimed the lives of 1.6 million people worldwide.

Aids affects every race, however, the impact of aids on African Americans is proportionally higher. Representing 14% of the population and 44% of all new HIV infections.

In 2013, 53% of newly diagnosed people in my home town of KC were black men between the ages of 13-29.

1.1 million people in the United States alone are living with HIV/AIDS with over 50,000 new HIV infections each year.

There hasn’t been any new statistical data related to HIV/AIDS available since 2012. We do not know if the disease has statistically gotten better or worse in this time frame. Stay alert, practice abstinence, and get tested regularly even if you are practicing safe sex.

IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS!

It’s not an epidemic just affecting the continent of Africa like many would think. It is estimated that 25% or more of the population in the United States are living undiagnosed with this disease. Many newly diagnosed are exposed to HIV by people that are not aware of it. Not only is this portion of the population not being treated but they are NOT protecting others from the disease either.

THINGS WE CAN DO

Talk about sex with your family members and loved ones. I know we would like everyone to just abstain from sex until marriage this isn't the reality we live in. Teens are having unprotected sex at a much younger age and not understanding the gravity of what such a decision could have on their life. Let’s talk about it. It shouldn’t be a talk that we shy away from as parents, guardians, etc.

I believe that it’s the responsibility of everyone to push HIV/Aids education. This disease is a lot closer to home than you think.

There are resources available in your cities. Let’s all do our part to raise awareness and support the effort to “GETTING TO ZERO” = Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS related Deaths.

 

NYC

~Mellissa

 

 

 

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