Dr. LaJoyce Brookshire
December 1, 2018
It was December 1, 1990 and unbeknownst to me it was the 2nd Annual World AIDS Day. To me it was quite simply supposed to be the happiest day of my life… my wedding day. And little did I know that the man to whom I was pledging my vows to God in front of family and friends had AIDS.
In commemoration of World AIDS Day, I want to have a real talk about HIV/AIDS that is still a thorn in the side of Communities of Color 30 years later.
The man I fell in love with married me knowing he had full-blown AIDS and did not tell me. He wined, and dined me, and proposed to me five months into our relationship. Can you say RED FLAG RIGHT THERE??? Because the end of our getting-to-know-you phase ended and the planning-my-fabulous-out-of-town wedding began. There were so many things that were wrong about it all and I just chalked it up to Wedding Stress. The moment we got married and were on the honeymoon in Hawaii he flips. I mean, I do not recognize my new husband. This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde behavior continues for two years until he gets sick and is diagnosed with full blown AIDS. Now the doctors all think I’m infected too and they had the audacity to make an attempt to convince me of a fate that did not belong to me. I had to burst in to a full-on rant like a Black woman from the South Side of Chicago to get those folks to take my blood so they could tell me I was negative. And, I am negative…Hallelujah!!!. I know I am God’s Girl and I am covered by His Grace AND I have a Rock-Solid Immune System. On that day, and in that moment, there was no doctor who could have convinced me of the contrary.
I stayed with my husband, doctored on him even though I was not yet a doctor, got his T-Cell count up from 4 to 100, and changed his diapers until he died in Hospice. It was not until he died that I discovered my husband was on the Down Low.
I had some incredible people holding me up in The Village I have created for myself and one of them is Debra Fraser- Howze who was then the CEO/Founder of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. You can read the detailed account of it all in my memoir FAITH UNDER FIRE: BETRAYED BY A THING CALLED LOVE published by Karen Hunter/SimonShuster publishing.
I said all of that to say HIV and AIDS is an indiscriminate disease which cuts across every single geographical, socio-economic, ethnic, gender, culture, and religious line. It leaves devastation and heartbreak in its wake. Many think that the medicines can control and spread of HIV and AIDS because people don’t look sick like they used to and it is under control but, nothing could be further from the truth.
The latest HIV/AIDS statistics from the CDC reports:
- African Americans represented 12% of the population, but accounted for 44% of HIV diagnoses. African Americans have the highest rate of HIV diagnoses compared to other races and ethnicities.
- Hispanics/Latinos represented 18% of the population, but accounted for 25% (9,766) of HIV diagnoses.
- Women accounted for 19% of HIV diagnoses primarily attributed to heterosexual contact
- African American women were seven times as likely as white women and eight times as likely as Hispanic women to become HIV-positive due to black men who have sex with men and yet do not classify themselves as gay.
I AM ALSO VERY CONCERNED about the college population who is overlooked … that even with a warning from The New England Journal of Medicine which stated a decade ago, “…The problem is not getting any better and it needs to be addressed with increasing emphasis.”
Why then have the conversations about HIV come to a screeching halt? Why are the students not being educated about the fact that STDs are a precursor to HIV?
The college-aged demographic tends to use condom protection less than any other demographic especially when coupled with alcohol and drug use. Over 45% of college aged students who have been binge drinking fail to consider the usage of contraceptive aids when engaging in sexual intercourse. These bad decisions can be traced to immaturity, alcohol, and a lack of education and prevention programs. This reckless behavior makes a clear case for patterns leading to HIV. On the heels of Charlie Sheen’s HIV announcement to the world in 2015, the urgency for HIV education is paramount.
Race also seems to be a factor in HIV/AIDS infection. African Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV infection; accounting for 55% of all HIV infections reported among persons aged 13–24. Whhhaaat??? These are our babies!!! I do NOT understand the silence!
This is a right now conversation that needs to take place with college students in the form of an HIV/STD Education and Prevention Program I have created entitled: “What You Don’t Know About HIV/STDs Can Kill You”.
As a community we can work collectively to halt the numbers of this preventable disease. Here are some tips on what we can do to stay well:
.Before you Swap Spit… Swap Information like, “Do you know your status?”
.Ask questions…a lot of them. I have 200 of questions in the back of my book. Please don’t be like me and become so enamored with the “Cutie Pie” in front of me. I did not complete my due diligence. We do more investigation when buying a new dress or a new car than we do with the one we are going to get in bed with. STOP IT!!
-Use a barrier EVERY time you have sex, but, do NOT put your FAITH in a rubber device that leaks, expires and must be kept at room temperature.
Question: How many of you know what is room temperature?
Answer: 68-72 degrees.
You better play Nancy Drew because she took the time to INVESTIGATE!!
-Keep your Immune health in Tip-Top shape so that you can defeat any disease coming your way.
-Pray without ceasing… Pray that you have the discernment to see what is not evident. And Pray that you have the strength to walk away upon discovery of the truth. Only the truth will Make you Free. And if I had to say Amen, I think I’d put one right there!