Don’t Take Anything for Granted…

Yesterday on Facebook, most of my friends posted this article, which tells the story of William “Reds” Brawner, the young man who is HIV positive and had unprotected sex with multiple women during his matriculation at Howard University. 

Now, before I begin sharing my thoughts, let me give you a little background about Mr. Brawner.  At 18 months old, he was the recipient of a blood transfusion due to burns received from scalding hot water.  Months later, William’s mother, Linda, received a call from a doctor stating that her son may have received blood from a donor who had GRID, which stands for “gay-related immune disorder” (AIDS originally name).  Living in Philadelphia, Linda had her son tested and his results came back positive;  William had HIV.  Linda, along with her family, decided not to tell anyone that William was HIV positive.  While William knew of his status and was even an AIDS activist on campus, he knowingly had unprotected sex while in college.  And what’s even more shocking is that he didn’t tell his partners. 

In the film “25 to Life”, William, his friends, and his family, relay their stories about his experience and what they also went through.  At least 3 of his partners from Howard were interviewed.  So far, it has been determined that William did not give the disease to anyone. 

I was so devastated to read this story, for a number of reasons.  First, I find it disheartening that at this day and time, people, especially women, are having unprotected sex, specifically with someone you’re not dating exclusively.  Next, I can’t believe someone who knew their status would be so careless as to not protect their partner.  That lets me know that he didn’t care about his partners…AT ALL.  And although William is definitely to blame for his actions, I also put some ownness on his mother.  I believe Linda put her son and his friends, classmates, and potential mates at risk by NOT disclosing his condition to his school administrators.  What if he got injured at school?  Medical officials would need to know his status to further protect themselves and the students.  Mrs. Brawner did a real injustice and disservice to her son by not making him feel comfortable with his condition.  Yes, he may have met with some resistance, but let’s look at Rae Lewis-Thornton and Hydeia Broadbent, AIDS activist who are also HIV positive.  I’m not naive enough to believe people wouldn’t look at him crazy and automatically think things about him that are untrue.  But it would serve him when dealing with people who aren’t small-minded and are willing to get to know him for the person he is. 

The main thing I learned while reading about William is to not take anything for granted.  If you are sexually active, take your partner to get tested.  Make it a date.  (OK, maybe not the most romantic thing, but at least you know that you both are safe.)  And just because someone doesn’t “look” sick doesn’t mean they don’t have an illness.  And there are so many STD’s besides HIV, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes, that can be contracted if safe sex isn’t practiced.  If you don’t care about your health, how do you expect anyone else to?  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

Also, check out this article from “The Loop”.

Way Back Wednesday-World AIDS Day

Today is December 1.  A lot of people are gearing up for the holiday season.  Before we get to celebrating, we should all be aware that it is World AIDS Day.  This is the day each year that the world comes together to raise awareness about the AIDS epidemic affecting our citizens.  We recognize those who have succumbed to the disease, and we celebrate those who are still living with it. 

World AIDS Day was a concept first thought of in August of 1987 by two public information officers, James Bunn and Thomas Netter, at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.  Through their work with Dr. Jonathan Mann, the director of the Global Programme on AIDS, World AIDS Day had its first official observance on December 1, 1988.  Throughout the years there have been various themes.  This year’s theme is Universal Access and Human Rights. 

This year, some of your favorite celebrities are dying so that children with AIDS can live.  Various stars, like Ryan Seacrest, Alicia Keys, Serena Williams, and Kim Kardashian, are participating in a digital death, meaning they will not use social media like Facebook and Twitter, until they collectively raise $1 million for children living with AIDS in Africa and India.   (Go here to donate.)  Also, various cities around the world are hosting events.  Be sure to see what’s going on in your city.

Mostly importantly, know your status.  Go get tested.  There are numerous clinics and hospitals around the country that offer free, anonymous testing.  It will take about 20 minutes to have your mouth swabbed (no needles!) and to get your results.  Be sure to take your partner or a friend with you.  To lower your risk of catching HIV/AIDS, always practice safe sex.   Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

What We Won’t Talk About-HIV/AIDS

African-Americans comprise approximately 12% of the population, but we make up almost 43% of those infected with AIDS in America.  It’s thought by many that Black women are catching this disease by leaps and bounds over other races due to the fact they are having unprotected sex with men who sleep with other men.  Some others speculate it’s a matter of these women being careless and having unprotected sex with multiple partners.  Whatever the case, we need to begin speaking to those who are sexually active and encourage them to practice safe sex with ALL partners.  Below are some tips that I think are essential when it comes to dealing with your sexual partners.

1. Know your status– It’s up to each of us as individuals to know our status.  There are plenty of places to go in your community.  Click here to see what testing site is near you.  Even if we don’t feel like we have any symptoms or if we’re protected each time, continue to get tested the recommended 3 months.

2. Ask your partner his/her status– Not everyone that has AIDS “looks” sick.  Before you engage in any type of sexual activity with your mate, ask them the last time they got tested.  If it’s been a while for both of you, or even to ease your mind, go together. 

3.  If you’re sleeping with multiple people at the same time, let them know– First, each person you sleep with has the right to know if he/she is your only sexual partner.  We open ourselves to so much when we engage in sex with others.  It’s only fair that we give our partners the option of knowing if they are our only bedmate. 

There are tons more things that need to be put into practice, but the main thing is that a healthy, honest dialogue regarding HIV and AIDS needs to take place with all partners.   That’s the only way we will stop the spread of this disease that is killing our mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, sons, and daughters.  Parents, when you begin talking to your children about sex, tell them about all STDs.  Yes, our focus is on preventing teen pregnancy when sharing birth control information with our children.  But we also want to let children know about AIDS and HIV.  And this disease doesn’t care who you are or where you live or how much money you make.  Please use this post as an opportunity to TALK to your children, partner, and even friends about HIV and AIDS.  I’m sure it will save someone’s life.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

PS- A few years ago a movie titled “Cover” starring Aunjanue Ellis, Vivica Fox, and Leon came out in limited cities around the US.  This movie discussed secret bedmates and what could happen if we betrayed a loved one.  I strongly suggest you all see this movie.