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The first time a friend told me she had HIV, she couldn’t stop laughing.
She didn’t laugh through tears.
She just laughed.
I stared blankly at the wall behind her. Rarely am I at a loss for words and yet there I was… wanting to find something, ANYTHING to say to my friend who had revealed something so personal to me. We were in college and living our best lives. We weren’t supposed to have to deal with things like…HIV.
“It happens, right?” she said as she shrugged it off.
Maybe she was attempting to be stoic. Maybe she had already done the dramatic fall-out wailing. And maybe she had already been a fountain of tears. Maybe she had processed and accepted and just maybe she was at peace.
She was right about one thing – it does happen. It happens far too often. It happens in record numbers. This was something I didn’t know then.
According to the CDC, compared to other groups of women, Black women are disproportionately affected by HIV.
If you’re a Black woman, were raised by one, know one, love one or see them on a regular basis, this should concern you. This is scary.
The good news is that the number of HIV cases is declining. This is, I think, something to celebrate but knowing that women who look like me have rates that are 16 times higher than that of White women and 5 times higher than that of Hispanic women, I mean…dang, y’all. This is TERRIBLE.
Anyway – after hearing about my friend’s diagnosis, I launched little meetups with friends where we’d all go and get tested and then go out to eat afterward.
Getting tested together (whether we were sexually active or not) kept the entire experience causal and not as awkward. We’d joke around and laugh all up in the waiting rooms, load up on the free condoms and celebrate by eating out at restaurants and getting our karaoke.
I realize that not everyone has or grew up with that kind of support when it comes to the discussion of sexually transmitted diseases and getting tested. Even as adults, the conversation is hard. No one wants to talk about it. Even though this disease has affected so many of us…we still get all shy when we talk about it. That is IF we talk about it at all.
This is where PrEP comes in….
Now, girl…listen. I am not a doctor. I am still doing as much research as I can on PrEP and suggest that you do the same. As with anything, you absolutely need to talk to your doctor and your higher power on what is best for you and your body.
Okay, so what is PrEP?
PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis is a pill that can lower the risk for those who do not have HIV but are at risk of getting HIV. In short…it is an HIV prevention tool. PrEP is a powerful HIV prevention tool that includes both a daily pill and regular visits with your doctor.
And we’re not talking…“Oh, so if I take this pill, I MIGHT not get it.”
If you take the pill every day, your risk drops over 90%, friend.
Who is PrEP for?
-People who have partners who may be HIV-positive
-People who have multiple partners and especially if they have partners who have an unknown HIV status.
….and more. You can check out your HIV risk here. This will help determine if you’d be a good candidate for PrEP or not.
PrEP appears to be a great option for those who need it.
Is your mind blown a bit? Mine was too when I sat down to crank out thoughts for this post. The sheer discussion of heavy topics like HIV can be so easy to avoid. But avoid them we cannot, girl. Not this Black woman. I have no problem highlighting some of the struggles that affect my fellow sisters and will ALWAYS showcase some of the solutions.
That said, if you want to get more information about PrEP, I highly recommend visiting here.
Also, if you would rather listen to this conversation, chcek out this Med-IQ sponsored Facebook Live featuring Dr. Oni Blackstock and Dr. Joy Harden Bradford. They break things down so easily so you don’t have to worry about feeling lost in the conversation.
Don’t stop talking, y’all. Our lives quite literally depend on your ability, willingness and bravery to just open up and say something.
Med-IQ is currently conducting a survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes more education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are anonymous and will be shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide us with important information about how women communicate with their physicians about their sexual health. The insights gained from the survey will be used in an educational tool to provide information that may be useful in keeping the lines of communication open with healthcare teams.
Once you’ve completed the survey, you will be asked to provide your email address if you’d like to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 8 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will not be sold, kept, or stored; email addresses are used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.
Oh, and my friend that I talked about? She’s doing just fine. She recently got married and honeymooned in Italy. For this post, I wanted to get her thoughts on PrEP and guess what? Her partner takes it and has had a great experience. That’s just one review but the fact that PrEP is even an option makes me marvel at modern science a bit.