My Kind of Life: Oye, Cuidate and Take Care of Your Comunidad Tambien!
Hey, Take Care of Yourself and Your Community Too!
Since HIV is mainly transmitted either sexually or by sharing needles and since admitting that one uses illicit drugs is reason enough to be deported or locked up, why in the world would anybody admit to sharing needles? You can holler all you want about confidentiality and privacy but when it comes to sex and drugs America has done such a swell job of creating the most fearsome stigma attached to these behaviors that one would not even admit it to God in the confessional.
So how do we take care of our communities of color that are already dogged, stigmatized and racially profiled every day by our society just for being beautifully colored? We have to do it for ourselves and for each other because no one else will; they're all too busy with their own agendas and closets full of their own skeletons.
The sooner that everyone in our communities of color admits that HIV has hit us hard, the sooner our healing can begin. Let's forget about who is having sex with who and if it is an abomination or a deviation or a denial. Let's focus on the fact that your children can understand sexuality and the psyche. If you do not teach your kids about the "reality" of life then whom do you want to train your kids for you? Jugs, Hustler, Honcho or porno flicks? They may receive their sex education from the latest fallacies and myths going around the schoolyard or the street or worse yet, by trial and error. I am focusing on the children because that is where we need to start. If we can change the thinking and behavior of the children by arming them with accurate and scientific-based information on human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases, we'll have half the battle won.
Meanwhile, the adults out there running around poking each other without condoms, sharing needles and sniffing or smoking anything that's white are going to be very hard to reach, especially if the other people in their community don't reach out to them. How do we get our communities of color to adhere to some simple rules? By de-stigmatizing their behavior and removing the importance of the gender of whom they are having sex with. Let's leave that factoid in the closet for now -- pun intended -- and let's just focus on the facts and the fact that having unprotected sex or sharing needles can lead to ill health at the very least and death at worst. People only hear the labels and feel the stigma, therefore they tune the message out and do not seek testing and counseling.
One of the most troublesome problems is admitting that some of us beautifully colored people have sex with the same sex. "Not in my family!" I've heard this as a youngster from my elders and have heard it proclaimed from other families' elders. As long as these deviants are from another family or better yet another race entirely, then a conversation about men who have sex with men may be possible but still "not in my colored community!" So why don't we just stop it!
The Ryan White CARE Act expired on September 30, 2005. What will our communities of color do if we keep on keepin' on and find ourselves in lines waiting and praying that we get help before AIDS kills more members of our community?
You need help talking about these sexual, uncomfy issues with your partner or family? First search within yourself and see if you can handle talking about it with yourself, try it in front of a mirror. Can't go there? Call the Red Cross and ask them for information on HIV basics and when you can attend their next free training. You can also contact Test Positive Aware Network and ask about their TEAM (Treatment Education Advocacy Management) curriculum, an in-depth training covering HIV and AIDS from how the infection works to learning how to take care of yourself or others impacted by HIV/AIDS. Pick up a copy of the Chicago Area HIV Services Directory or go online at www.tpan.com and look under education or information. It is out there and it is free. If anything about sex makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to a therapist, they are also free for you and your family, again in the Directory. Better use these services while they're still available.
So I don't want to hear any more babbling about not in my family, not in my school, not in my hood and not in my church. I want to hear complete acceptance and caring for one another by us teaching one another. We do not need to be tolerated; we need to be helped and respected.
That means that we're going to start acting like we care for one another. Love is the message. This means you take responsibility for yourself and the person you are going to have sex with. Do not let yourself be penetrated by anyone who is not wearing a condom. That's not love -- love for yourself. If you ask someone are you HIV-positive and they say no, you do not act like a fool and have unsafe sex with them as if they just gave you their Western Blot test results. Don't forget about the tests' inability to check for antibodies until three to six months after exposure.
If we don't teach love and scientific facts, the numbers of HIV infections in our beautifully colored communities will truly be an epidemic of gargantuan proportions.
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Third Annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day to Address Stigma, Secrecy Surrounding HIV/AIDS in Community
This article was provided by Test Positive Aware Network. It is a part of the publication Positively Aware. Visit TPAN's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.