Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Monday, February 7, 2011

National Black AIDS Awareness Day

In case you didn't know it, today (February 7) is National Black HIV/ AIDS Awareness Day. It is a day when many cities will host events that address HIV and its impact on the African-American community. For those that are unaware, Black folks only make up twelve percent of this country but we make up half of all new HIV cases. It is unfortunate but we are the new face of HIV for the U.S.

HIV is listed as the number one cause of death for African-Americans between the ages of 25 and 49. And the trend over the last few years has been toward an increase in numbers (not a decrease as we would like to see). Somehow we are missing the message. HIV, a preventable disease, is on the rise.

It is estimated that about twenty-five percent of those individuals that are HIV positive are unaware of their status. This means that they are unknowlingly contributing to the transmission of the virus. This is why it is so important for us to get tested. Knowing your status is the all important first step. Knowing your status means you get yourself the treatment you need if you are positive. Knowing your status means you respect yourself and your partners. And knowing your step means that you are doing your part to eliminate HIV transmission.

I still vividly remember my very first HIV test. It was 1993 and I was at the Pike County Health Department in Troy, Alabama. Looking back I had really not engaged in any risky behaviour at the time but during this period any sex was considered risky sex. In the early 90s there was no such thing as a rapid test. You had to wait two weeks before your results came back. Two very drooling weeks. Fourteen of the most painful, heart wrenching, mind numbing days of my life. When your two weeks were up you had to call the office to get your results. I had already heard how things would go. If all was well they would give you the results over the phone. However, if you were told you needed to come into the office, then this was a very bad sign.
Exactly two weeks later I called the clinic to find out my results. As my granny used to say, "I was nervous as a whore in church." I gave my name to the person that answered the phone and my heart stopped at her reply. "Jason, were going to need you to call us back tomorrow or come to the office tomorrow." I honestly didn't know how to respond to that. I couldn't think. All I could do was say "Okay." The following day I drove down to the office only to be told that "all is well. You're test came back negative." Turns out my results were not in yet on the first day that I called.
Almost two decades later and I have to say this disease has changed so much. The lifespan of individuals infected has changed. The resources available to positive individuals has changed. And the community affected has changed. However, for those individuals that still refuse to get tested and ignore all the data available about HIV - if you choose to remain ignorant, you will be infected/ affected exactly like those we lost in the 80s (back when we knew almost nothing). So I encourage to to get in the know to take care of yourself, your family and your friends.

Get informed. Get involved. Get tested.

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