I was young, which means that I was prone to doing stupid stuff, and so it made perfect sense that I believed that dumb boy when he said it was okay to sleep with him unprotected because there was no way he could have The AIDS. "When I get a cut, it heals, so I can't have it because when you have The AIDS your cuts don't heal."
That's all he had to say to get me to drop my insistence that he wear a condom.
My cuts heal so I can't have The AIDS.
Now this was back in the late 80s, when information about HIV/AIDS was scant and we college girls thought that the only protection we needed was from becoming mothers before we got the college degree and a wedding ring. The Virus was what homosexual men passed from one to the other—them and drug addicts. Regular girls—girls who weren't fast or taking needles in their arms or sleeping with gay men? Well yeah, we had some secret "regular girl" potion in our blood that automatically dismissed us from catching The AIDS. So it was safe to pop The Pill to ward off pregnancies and pay no never mind to making a boy wear a condom. Especially if he protested.
Well, in 2009—some 20 years later—men are still protesting, and we women, particularly black women, are still, overwhelmingly too naive/stupid/afraid to make our men use condoms, get tested, and share the results. Clearly, the statistics tell the story. This from the CDC and The Kaiser Family Foundation:
• According to the 2005 census, Black and Latina women represent 24% of all US women combined, but account for 82% of the estimated total of AIDS diagnoses for women in 2005.
• HIV is the leading cause of death for black women (including African American women) aged 25–34 years, the 3rd leading cause of death for black women aged 35–44 years, and the fourth leading cause of death for black women aged 45–54 years.
• The rate of AIDS diagnosis for black women was approximately 23 times the rate for white women and 4 times the rate for Latina women
• In 2006, teen girls represented 39% of AIDS cases reported among 13–19 year-olds. Black teens represented 69% of cases reported among 13–19 year-olds; Latino teens represented 19%.
What's most alarming is that a whopping 83% of new HIV infections among African American and Latina women are contracted through heterosexual sex. Which means that an enormous amount of us are STILL willingly playing Russian Roulette every time we have unprotected sex with men.
This, of course, isn't so much about stupidity as it is about politics—the fear we women have when it comes to legislating in the bedroom. We swaddle sex in a soft, warm blanket of emotion and love, and then tip toe around the politics of intimacy, afraid to rock the cradle lest the baby—our man—get upset and book up. All too many of us reason that it's simply easier to sleep with him unprotected than to suffer the consequences that come with demanding he use a condom—or, God forbid, telling him he's not going to get any because he won't wear one.
But what's the alternative?
Check the stats.
Print them out if you have to.
And then attach them to a box of condoms and set the box face-up in the top drawer of your nightstand. In the glove compartment of your car. In the hideaway pocket in your purse. In your teenager's backpack. And her top drawer, too.
And remind yourself over and over again that using condoms for sex isn't about insulting anyone or not trusting him or inviting promiscuity or going against God's will.
Using condoms is about saving lives.
Namely, your own.
MyBrownBaby is Rocking the Red Pump as part of National Women/Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, with the hope that this post, and dozens more spearheaded by Awesomelyluvvie and The Fabulous Giver of The Red Pump Project, encourages women to protect themselves. A great way to do this is to know your status; click HERE to find a low-cost, pain-free testing site near you. You can find out more information, too, by visiting this special page on the United States Health and Human Services website, or checking out local programs today in your area, including:
A free viewing and discussion, led by actress/AIDS activist Sheryl Lee Ralph, of the hard-hitting documentary "All of Us," about the impact of HIV/AIDS on a group of African American women in New York City's South Bronx. At the Camille Cosby Academic Auditorium at Spelman College; 350 Spelman Lane, S.W., Atlanta, GA 30314. Hosted by Sisterlove, Inc.
The Red Pump Project "Happy Hour," to network, socialize, and raise funds and awareness about the effect of AIDS on women and girls. If you're in the area, drop by:
Plush Restaurant & Lounge
1104 W. Madison
6:30 - 9pm
Hosted by Karyn & Luvvie
Kansas City, MO
1715 Main St.
5:30 - 8pm
Hosted by GlamStarr