I am a thirty-something year old African American female, who grew up in Watts and attended school in the suburb of Compton. I was an average to excellent student; depending on my mood or my frame of mind. I was never in any trouble during my school-age years. I've always felt that peer-pressure was something people on TV went through, because I was definitely a willful and strong spirited child who made up her own mind. I believe it was these qualities, along with a strong mother and an unshakable belief in God that made me believe that gangs were for cowards and people who couldn't or didn't know how to fight.
During school, I was class president and popular, to say the least. I didn't date a lot during these years, but I hung-out with my friends a great deal. There were many good times and some childhood pranks.
My mother had a philosophy about drugs and she incorporated corporal punishment into this philosophy. She didn't believe in child abuse but she would, if needed, give spankings. Mom really didn't have to do or say much when it came to drugs because it wasn't my thing. I rapidly adopted her philosophy on jail time. She continues to feel that everyone is entitled to one mistake and she would bail you out one time, and one time only. Needless to say, I'm still saving my one time and I have no intentions on going to jail.
So, you see, not everybody in the hood is in trouble, in gangs, on drugs or in jail. My mother pushed college; so I went. I am a licensed and certified professional. During the course of my career, I was exposed to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. I was not exposed because of sexual contact with an infected person: I was exposed to blood products, and thus started my life with "the virus".
Yes, that's correct, a girl from the hood has the virus. A few things you may find amazing are: I'm not gay, I'm not white and I'm not a man. I know! ... I was shocked! I didn't fit the profile of someone with HIV. What really got me was, I wasn't even sexually active when I was diagnosed. I hadn't been sexually active for three years, and I always practiced safer sex prior to that.
It's been over three years since my diagnosis and I'm still in the hood. I hear statistics about HIV/AIDS and I'm afraid for people of color and women. People of color have made strides in the socioeconomic realm, but people of color are continually adding to the mountain of myths concerning AIDS. I am very concerned about women, especially my African American sisters.
My African American sisters hold a great deal of responsibility in the community. We are not only the mothers but sometimes we have to be the fathers also. We are the glue that holds the family together and the love and guidance behind our men. As I look around, I see my sisters in destructive relationships and continual possible exposure to the virus.
I hurt for them, and I preach my message of abstinence and or safer sex. I even try to teach them how to incorporate safer sex practices into their lives, but they either don't care or don't recognize the danger. I hope you can understand that the girls in the hoodcan get HIV/AIDS too. So please, be careful and get tested.