As I hope all of you know, today marks World AIDS Day. This day is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection.
Some quick facts for you (these are worldwide statistics):
- At the end of 2010, an estimated 34 million people were living with HIV worldwide, up 17% from 2001.
- HIV/AIDS is the world’s leading infectious killer claiming—to date—more than 27 million lives. An estimated 2 million people die every year from HIV/AIDS.
- There were approximately 2.7 million new HIV infections in 2010, including an estimated 390 000 among children. This was 15% less than in 2001, and 21% below the number of new infections at the peak of the epidemic in 1997.
This HIV/AIDS thing ain’t no joke.
We spend a lot of time thinking about our hair and what we put on our bodies, but we have to spend more time thinking about our health.
HIV is contracted in a number of ways:
- during sexual contact
- during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding
- as a result of intravenous drug use
- as a result of occupational hazard (meaning you’re a healthcare worker and are contact with HIV-contaminated blood)
- as a result of a blood transfusion
(Get more details about how you can contract HIV here.)
So how do you protect yourself from contracting HIV?
- Educate yourself. Back in the day when I was in high school and college, every song had a reference to a ‘jimmy hat’ and wrapping that sucker up before any sexual contact. Folks, we have gotten lax over the last 10 or 15 years. There are people right now who believe there is a cure for HIV. There is not. Knowledge is power. Know about HIV, AIDS and all the other STDs/STIs that are out there and how you can contract them. Learn how to use a condom.
- Have the talk. As uncomfortable as it may be, you need to have a conversation with your partner to find out about his/her sexual history and HIV status. Yes, it may be awkward, but having to take antiretroviral drugs for the rest of your days may be more awkward than a chat over wine.
- Get tested. Go to the doctor/clinic and get an AIDS test. Scary, yes, but you need to know, right?
- Protect yourself. If you are going to be sexually active, take care of yourself. Don’t fall for ‘it feels better without one’ or ‘I’m clean!’ Chupse. I’m directing this one at you, ladies. Make sure you have condoms ready to go. Don’t put your health in the hands of anyone else. If you think something is going to happen, get some condoms, put them in your purse and be ready to use them. Don’t take no for an answer — I don’t care how fine, how much you love him, how much he professes to love you. Love yourself more than you love anyone else.
- Abstain from sexual contact. People always act as if abstinence/celibacy is a death sentence. It really isn’t. As far as I’m concerned, we are too liberal with how we get down sexually and we need to use more common sense because ignorance is literally killing us. If you’re not mature enough to talk to your partner(s) about their HIV status, go to the drug store to buy some condoms and go to your doctor to get tested, you DO NOT need to have sex with anyone. There is nothing wrong with waiting until you are married or grown and mature enough to protect yourself properly. Even then, you need to have the talk and get tested.
Of course, if you’re using intravenous drugs and sharing needles, you’re putting yourself at higher risk for contracting HIV. If that’s the case, you need to get help. Talk to your doctor, a friend or someone who loves you and get back on track.
This is a hair blog — a place where we talk about fun stuff like deep conditioning and wigs and random foolishness. But every now and then, we need to get serious. I don’t want to scare anyone, but I do want you to be smart and look after yourself. It’s all good to have the hottest natural hair on the block, but if you aren’t taking care of the rest of you, what’s the point?