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Like Sand Through the Hourglass, Women's Health Falls

November 15, 2010

For our World AIDS Day 2010 section, we wanted to capture the diversity of the AIDS community. So, we reached out to people across the world -- mostly those who have never written for us before -- and asked them to guest blog. These columns are written by people who are living with HIV, have been affected by HIV, or work in the field.

Brooke Davidoff

Brooke Davidoff

"Women haven't really gotten the message that they're at risk," said Shannon L. Hader, M.D., M.P.H., director of HAHSTA, the D.C. health department's HIV/AIDS administration, in an interview on CNN. "So we are very, very concerned with making sure that women in the District realize that HIV, in fact, is a woman's disease too."

I couldn't agree more. But whose fault is that? How many women in America go to their OBGYN or a Planned Parenthood office every year to get a Pap smear and a refill for 12 more months of some type of birth control? How many of these doctors recommend or even suggest HIV testing? None that I've been to, in multiple cities and states.

For other STDs, occasionally you are asked if you want to be tested. But I'd never been told by any of my previous doctors that I was at risk and should get tested for HIV. I've been on and off the Pill or the patch since I was 18. I'm now in my early 30s and had NEVER been told by a doctor that this was a test I should have.

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Sometimes they ask if you would like an HIV test. Asking if you want blood work done at the doctor's? Really? How many people actually say yes?

When you go to the dentist they say, "You need to have this tooth pulled." They don't ask if you would like your teeth pulled.

If a doctor says this needs to be done, and they say, "You are at risk," I believe them. If they give you the option, then you can assume it's not a big deal.

It is a BIG DEAL.

Women are on birth control mostly so we don't have to hear the men in our lives complain about condoms. After a guy has been with a woman on birth control who didn't make him use a condom, they never want to wear one again. Personally, I can't tell the difference. But all the men claim they can.

Men don't have to deal with the after-sex calendar paranoia women have to go through. I used to write down my periods and sex days so I could keep track and know when I should get my period.

It has to be the medical professionals who lead in beginning to tell women they NEED to be tested. When we come in for our annual exam, an HIV test should be required. With a symptomless, deadly, incurable illness don't we want people to find out they have it as soon as possible?

At least that way, when you test positive, you know you got it in the last year. You can narrow down the list of who you got it from.

I tested positive in January of 2010 simply because I was pregnant, and it's a routine blood test. If there was no baby, I'd still have no idea. Turns out I have had this for a long time. My husband of less than a year is negative. We have been together over three years unprotected.

The ex I had before him, I was with for three years. He claims he is also "clean." So I have had this for at least six years, with no symptoms.

When I told people in my life who are single and sexually active, a few of them actually went to their doctor and asked for an HIV test. My sister-in-law had to argue with someone at her doctor's office to get the test taken. They told her she was at low risk and didn't need to have it done. She told them otherwise.

I've said before I don't blame anyone really other than myself. I do however think Planned Parenthood, which claims to be the savior for uninsured and uneducated youth, are doing a shitty job of letting the youth of America know they're at risk.

I've been to many Planned Parenthood offices over the years. They educate you on everything from the morning-after pill, to abortions, adoption, the Pill, the patch and every STD you've ever heard of -- other than this one. I've never seen a poster, or been handed a flyer about it.

I think the only way to save uninfected straight and gay people is to get the word out there. HIV is real, it's expensive, it's a pain in the ass and you don't have to get it. I told a lot of my friends who are straight and don't use condoms. A lot of my friends and family got tested after talking to me. The only thing we can do is educate, since it seems the health industry dropped the ball somewhere.

This World AIDS Day, Brooke will be speaking on this topic in Seattle. If you're in the area, check TheBody.com's World AIDS Day event listing under "Washington" (the state, not D.C.) regularly for updated details as the event is finalized.

Brooke is a recently married, recently diagnosed working mom. Her son Myles was born on July 15, 2010.

Read more of Voice of ONE, Brooke's blog, on TheBody.com.


This article was provided by TheBody.com.

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Stephanie (Miami, FL) Mon., Feb. 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm EST
Hi Brooke,
I can sadly say I can feel your pain and frustration.
I have been happily married for a year and a half. My husband and I have been together for 4 years total.
Last October, my husband and I decided to become egg donors to help out a local family that couldn't conceive on their own. I filled out a ton of paperwork and was notified that blood test where going to be taken and I will be tested for EVERYTHING!! I very confidently gave the green light.
I am a very health conscious person and saw my doctor 2x a year. I thought HIV testing was part of the routine testing done with your very trusting doctor. Well I was very wrong!
A couple days before my scheduled egg retrieval, I got a call from my doctor. Over the phone, he told me I was HIV positive!!! I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was in a Burger King drive thru and before I knew, I was crying hysterically on my way home to my husband.
Since then, I have been an emotional roller coaster.
Luckily, my husband is negative and he has been my biggest supporter.
I am somewhat relieved I found out now and not when we get pregnant.
I definitely agree an HIV test should become part of your yearly check up. Not a single doctor I have gone to has ever mentioned it to me. Who knows how long I've had it?!?!?!? Its still very scary to me.
Thanks for telling your amazing journey!!! Its good to know I'm not the only one going thru this.
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Comment by: Laura (Tennessee) Sun., Jan. 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm EST
Brooke, just want to say I look forward to reading your blog every month. Hope to hear from you again soon!
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Comment by: Maarsi (CA) Fri., Jan. 7, 2011 at 10:04 pm EST
Brooklyn! I had no idea! I wish could be there to help you as much as possible. No wonder you are beyond stressed sweetie! My prayers are with you and your family!
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Comment by: Marie (New Jersey) Sun., Nov. 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm EST
I totally agree! We are not going to be able to combat ppl from getting this disease by ignoring that fact that anyone can get this. Brooke my story is the same as yours. If i wouldn't had my daughter in 2007 I know that I would still be walking around not knowing my status. With that being said I am happy that I found out sooner then later.
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Comment by: Ashley N (San Diego) Tue., Nov. 23, 2010 at 10:47 am EST
Brooke you are so amazing! I love what you are doing for others here! I use to get tested every year for years but you are right. I had to ask for it. Never once was it offered or suggested from day one of being sexually active and going to planned parenthood. You're right it should be part of your regular yearly exam!
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Comment by: Erin (Minnesota) Thu., Nov. 18, 2010 at 7:02 pm EST
You are absolutely right! I was diagnosed in 2006 when I was 29yrs old. I had been with my husband for 10 years at that time (faithfully)...he tested negative. I had only been sexually active for 2 years prior to meeting my husband. I had NEVER been asked to take an HIV test by any of my docs growing up. I got very ill in 2004 and the doctors (many of them) spent over 2 years running many many many tests before 1 (and only 1) doc finally suggested an HIV test (just to rule it out - we never never expected it to be positive). Guess what - it was positive. Based on my history, my faithfulness to my hubby, and his negative test, the docs made an educated guess that I had been HIV positive for 11 years before finding out!!! I, too, take responsibility for contracting the disease (young, dumb and irresponsible), however, had even 1 doc told me to take an HIV test during my annual physical during all those years, I would have known and been treated so much sooner...
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Comment by: David (alabama) Tue., Nov. 16, 2010 at 9:44 am EST
Thank you... I so agree!!!
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