AIDS is the number one killer of African-American women aged 23-34. In the African-American community, discussing HIV is taboo. This is a conversation that the African-American community needs to have. We should be afraid. Presently, African-American women have the highest rate of HIV infections and are 23 times more likely to contract AIDS vs. other ethnic groups. A woman is twice as likely to contract HIV infection during unprotected vaginal intercourse with an infected partner. Why is this happening in our community? These women are wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters, heads of household and the gatekeepers of the African-American community. It’s going to get worse if we do not do something about it. 
   {mosimage}Reasons for this epidemic inclkude unprotected sex, intravenous drug use and brothers on the “down low.” Some African-Americans face challenges that put them at a higher risk of contracting HIV: socioeconomic status, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and less access to high-quality medical care. 
   It saddens me to see this going on in our community. I feel that there is a denial that AIDS is an epidemic among African-Americans which makes people reluctant to get tested or have conversations about the disease. The issue needs to be addressed. We cannot wait on the government to help us with this epidemic and should work together to find a solution to the problem. Early diagnosis is the critical step in dealing with this crisis.
   We are now living in a society where people live double lives, or shall I say double lies, and put others at risk of becoming infected because of selfishness. These actions can destroy the spirit of a woman and cause her not to trust so easily. Women, protect yourselves and listen to your gut feeling when you are getting to know your mate. You know when something is not quite right about a person. HIV statistics among African-American women are rising and you have to take care of you. 
   The African-American community needs to acknowledge that AIDS is an issue and should talk about it. Everyone needs to be involved in the process. We need to educate one another about prevention, encourage HIV testing and provide treatment to those who need it. We have to make sure African-American women are around to take care of their children and contribute to our community. It is time to stop living in denial and do something about it.

Contact Shanessa Fenner at editor@upandcomingweekly.com 

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