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Image Courtesy of www.nationalblackaidsday.org
On February 7th of each year, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is observed in an effort tot inform our community about HIV/AIDS, encourage regular testing and provide access to care to those living with HIV/AIDS. With the 2017 theme as “I Am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper”, the focus is encouraging our communities to challenge the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS and make it a discussion that can lead to new perceptions and safer practices.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that spreads throughout our bodily fluids and attacks the immune system. As the immune system weakens, the body is unable to fight off infections and diseases. Left untreated, the immune system becomes less effective in protecting the body and eventually leads to a host of opportunistic infections which, in most cases, signifies that the person carrying the virus has developed AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). There is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS.
African-Americans are currently the group that is is most disproportionately affected by HIV and account for nearly 59% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents. Black women have a 1 in 32 chance of acquiring an HIV infection with the primary modes of transmission being high risk heterosexual contact and injection drug use.
Since there is currently no vaccine or cure for HIV/AIDS, safe practices, regular testing and thorough actions, such as the ones listed below, are essential to prevent transmission.
Always Practice Safe Sex
Use a condom with each sexual partner, especially if you are unaware of their status. Keep condoms in your possession so that you are always prepared. Female condoms, which can be inserted up to 4-6 hours prior to sexual intercourse, are another option, as well.
Bring Up the Topic
Don’t be afraid to ask your partner his/her status, to start a conversation among friends and/or family, or to have a round table discussion within your local organization.
Plan for Your Pregnancy
If you are currently pregnant or looking to start a family soon, ask your doctor about testing options. If you are HIV-positive, there are ways to prevent transmission from mother to unborn child, as long as action is taken early and regimens are followed.
Limit/Eliminate Drug Use
Transmission through injection drug use ranks high on the list as one of the main modes of HIV transmission among Black women. Although drug use is discouraged, if they are being used, aim to use clean needles and limit sharing in an effort to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
When HIV is contracted there is a window period during which it does not show up on tests. This time frame, which can last anywhere from 3-6 months, is a time during which the virus can still be passed from one person to another, although it may not be known that the virus is present. About 500,000 African-Americans living with HIV are unaware of their status. For these reasons, among many others, is why the conservation surrounding HIV/AIDS in our community must be had. To know better is to do better, and with this mindset, we can help to promote lifestyle practices which will lift us above HIV/AIDS.
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