Yes, I did lose my best friend to AIDS and I don’t want you to lose yours. As Black women and as a community we need to start speaking up and speaking out on HIV/AIDS. It’s chilling to think that over half of all new HIV cases are a result of heterosexual sex, and Black women account for 72% of new HIV/AIDS cases among women in the U.S.?
We must protect our lives and to do this, we have to use protection every time we’re involved with a man sexually. It’s not about letting it slide this one time either because every time we’re intimate with someone, we put ourselves at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS — a deadly disease that has many faces and doesn’t discriminate. You can be any age, make any amount of money, have an extremely successful career, look gorgeous and still contract HIV and die. If a sexual partner doesn’t want to use protection, then we need to simply move on because our bodies, our health and our well being are worth so much more than a few moments of passion. Our bodies are our temples and we must honor them as such.
Let’s say you meet a guy and you really like each other, but he says, “Hey, I’m bisexual.” What are you gonna do? You two haven’t had sex, but you’re not ready to deal with the honesty. Do you really want to be lied to? Do you really want him to tell you that you’re the only one, when you know in your heart he has another life and you’re exposing yourself to all of the sexually transmitted viruses and diseases he might have contracted from his multiple partners? If we’d just open ourselves up to hearing the truth, brothers wouldn’t have to be on the down low (DL).
I also think we need to go back to being courted by a man, like they did in the days of old-fashioned romance. Today when we first meet a guy, we want to label him as a potential husband — and we don’t even know if he’s worthy. That’s such a trap. Lets not give our special relationships with men a title early on. Instead, why not just concentrate on being friends first.
I also notice that when a woman stops being a man’s friend and becomes his wife, expectations change. Society gets involved. God forbid he gives her flowers on February 10 and none on Valentine’s Day. We can’t let people define how someone loves us. A woman shouldn’t make her life about her man or his life about her. When I’m in a man’s space, I don’t worry about when I’m not. And don’t be in a hurry to have somebody love you, because when you come from that desperate place, you wind up sacrificing an important part of your life. I did that. I dated someone I didn’t know was a drug user. Now when I play the record back in my head, I think, My God, did I put my children through that for love?
This column was originally published as part of an Institute fundraising campaign sponsored by Essence magazine. During the 2004 holiday season, Essence gave 100% of proceeds from gift subscriptions to the Institute’s work.