Know Your HIV Status; Testing Is Simple
Amid speculation that Charlie Sheen would be revealing his HIV status, many responded with statements like, "That's no surprise. Look at how he lived!" While that statement holds some truth, it is also misleading.
It's no secret that Charlie Sheen has lived a life plagued with bad decisions from drug abuse to engaging in sexual activity with prostitutes. However, it doesn't take numerous risky acts to contract an STD; only one!
Now, most adults have had sex more than once and with more than one person. Those of us with children obviously had unprotected sex (other than those who've had mishaps like broken condoms). During any of these encounters, we've placed ourselves at risk of contracting a number of diseases. Engaging in unprotected sex is placing a large amount of your personal health into the hands of another person. It's bad enough to share a certain level of intimacy with a person you barely know, but too many of us are not only sharing that intimacy but doing so without any type of protection. We take the fact that they "look good," "appear to be healthy," or because we haven't heard anything about them to mean that they are safe. We are more concerned about not creating a new life than we are placing our own lives at risk.
The following HIV facts have been released by the Alabama Department of Public Health, concerning the disease in the state:
- African Americans are 7.3 times more likely to become infected with HIV than non-African Americans.
- In African Americans, the majority (55%) of newly diagnosed HIV infections occur among men who have sex with men. The second most frequently reported mode of exposure is heterosexual contact (23%).
- Young African American males (15-29 years old) have been identified as a high-risk group for HIV infection; they are 11.5 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the average Alabama resident. Although sex with another male is the most commonly reported risk factor among young African American males, many of these individuals do not identify as gay or bisexual and also report heterosexual sex with women. (If THAT'S not scary, I don't know what is!)
- African American females are 7.4 times more likely to become infected with HIV than non African American females residing in Alabama.
- Among the 67 counties in Alabama, the majority of newly diagnosed HIV cases among African Americans reside in Jefferson, Madison, Mobile, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa Counties.
The sad reality is that the rate of new diagnoses can be easily eradicated. It's simply a matter of 1) knowing your status, and 2) not engaging in risky behavior. Knowing your status also means knowing the status of your partner and not making that person a partner until you know his/her status. If this means having a person to lose interest, so be it. Your lifelong health should be more important than a few minutes to hours of pleasure.
Knowing your status is simple. Drug stores now carry tests that can be performed in the privacy of your own home. But if you want to make sure you have the test performed properly, West Alabama AIDS Outreach performs free testing Monday through Thursday from 8am until noon. The process takes less than 30 minutes.
Here's a closer look at the actual test stick. Any woman who's ever been pregnant or had "a scare" is familiar with how to read the results.