Archive for the ‘HIV/AIDS’ Category

Girl, Go Get Tested

Monday, May 18th, 2009

So, thinking woman of faith have you gone out and been tested for the HIV/AIDS virus yet?

Say what? Why not?

You’re in a monogamous heterosexual relationship? What does that have to do with anything? Seventy-four percent of the black women who are infected were infected as a result of heterosexual contact, and women who believe themselves to be in monogamous relationships are the ones getting infected at the greatest rates these days.

You’re lesbian? So what?  The virus spreads through contact with either one of these four bodily fluids:  Semen. Blood. Vagina secretions. ( Saliva, if there are lesions in your mouth.) I’m not a lesbian, but I imagine that at some point in your lovemaking at least two of these fluids start flowing.  That’s certainly true, gulp, when us heterosexuals have sex — even bad sex. Girl, go get tested.

You’re virgin? Um, um, like what kind of virgin are you? Define virgin? Virgin, like, you’ve never even exchanged saliva with another person kinda virgin? That’s what I thought. Girl, go get tested.

What you say? You’re not a virgin, but it’s been years since you had some.   Experts say the virus can lay dormant and undetected in the body from anywhere between 10-15 years without your knowing, unless you’re tested. Say what? It’s been more than 15 years since you had some? (That calls for a blog post in itself.) In the meantime, I guess that makes you a virgin, sort of. So read what was written for those of you who are virgins.

You don’t want to know?  With the 99 things already on your plate, and many others crashing at your feet, why bother putting something else on your plate that you can’t do a daggum thing about anyway? Because you owe it to somebody who loves you and depends upon you (and who may come in contact with your saliva or blood one day). Because you owe it to yourself. Because you’re probably having sex with someone, and their health shouldn’t be put at risk just because you don’t want to know. Girl, go get tested.

So you don’t have insurance and think you can’t afford the test nor the treatment programs? The testing is free, and if you’re  positive treatment programs are available at low or no cost to you. Girl, go tested.

If you’re having sex, have had sex in the past, and are looking forward to having sex (again), go get tested for the HIV/AIDS virus. While you’re at is ask to be tested for the HPV virus (another one of those sexually transmitted viruses which can lead to cervical cancer).

What will it take for black women to get healthy and stay healthy? Why are we the ones most likely to die from nearly every disease that’s out there, even the preventable ones? What will it take to get through to us? Why must we get infected, if we don’t have to? Why must we die, if we don’t have to?

Now thinking woman of faith, what’s your excuse?

God told me to tell you:Get off your knees, close your bible, cease with speaking in tongues, and go get tested.

healthy black women

Why Our Girls?- Damn, Damn, Damn

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

I give up.

I have started and stopped and started rewriting this blogpiece 10 times already. I can’t seem to find my footing into this topic. The numbers are staggering.

One of every four teenage girls between 14-19 years old has been infected with a sexually transmitted disease.

Now take a look at the figures for black girls.

Forty-eight percent (48%) of African American teen girls between 14-19 years old has had at least one sexually transmitted disease.

What are we to think? How are we supposed to interpret this data?

pregnant bellyAre we to believe that black girls have more sex, more teen pregnancies, and more STD’s than any other population?

Now they are telling us that African Americans who make up only 13% of the population comprise half of the population living with HIV/AIDS in this country with African American, and that our teens are becoming the fastest growing poupulation contracting the disease. What are we supposed to think? That we have a bunch of diseased-ridden young sluts and studs that we call our children?

I know I owe  my readers a thoughtful, critical piece on this topic, but I’m at a loss for words right now. I know that because I’m a minister I should end with something inspiring and hopeful. I will, maybe tomorrow. But today I’m still trying to make sense of this. It’s not like I haven’t seen these figures before. It’s not like I haven’t addressed the topic of teen sex on the blog before. But there are days when you get it. It hits you over the head. The colossal tragic sadness of it all. It’s unfair.

And now they’re telling us that African-American teen girls need to be the first to receive the newly approved human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine . Something is wrong.

Why our children?

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that a friend called earlier this week with the heartbreaking news that their 15 year old niece who’s an honor roll student has been diagnosed HIV positive.

I just sent a text to the teenager who lives in my house: “We need to talk…about STDs…again!” She’s supposed to be in class right now. But I don’t know. I can’t be sure. Who knows?  She’s gonna freak when she reads her mother’s text. Her crazy mother who’s a minister and a blogger and fancies herself a thinking woman of faith.

Somebody hand me a bible…and a drink.

Close Your Legs

Monday, August 4th, 2008

I am stupefied (is that a word?).

A recent government study, focusing on teens aged 14 to 19, found that 1 out of 4 teen girls in the U.S. is infected with a sexually transmitted disease. What’s really sad is that 50% of African-American teen girls (compared to 20% of their white counterparts) live daily with one of the following STDs:  HPV, herpes, chlamydia, genital warts or trichomoniasis.

I admit that my first response as a mother and minister is to say “Close your legs.”

According to recent reports, 1 out of 2 HIV patients in the U.S. is African American!  In fact, AIDS is the leading cause of death among black women between 25 and 34, and the second-leading cause of death in black men from 35 to 44, according to a report released Tuesday.

That does it. I’m mailing back my card; I’m not the sex-positive feminist I thought I was.

Excuse me while I SCREAM!

Close your legs!

I preach abstinence to my own teen and to the ones at my church, but I get the feeling that I’m spitting at the wind on this one. They listen respectfully, more or less, but who wearing “sweet thing” on the seat of their pants and panties pays any mind to the warnings and godly admonishments of an old woman.

I try to talk to the young women I mentor about the topic, but I may as well try sweeping the sea with a broom. 

“Come on, Dr. Weems, getting pregnant is not the worst thing that can happen to a young woman.” And this comes from my young single women advisees who are in graduate school working on advanced degrees. They’ve managed to avoid pregnancy, but it’s not because they think having a baby outside of marriage is wrong. Getting pregnant would simply be a terrible inconvenience right now for young women with career goals like the ones they’ve set for themselves.

Humans like to talk a lot about love, but perhaps we need to strip it back to its fundamental and call it what it is, which is to say that there is no reasoning with the animal urge to mate and reproduce. Mating is what animals do. Male animals will gnarl through wire to get to a female animal who’s in heat. Female animals preen and prance, and pine for the attention of what they perceive as their species’ high-status males.

In the past what kept more young people from getting pregnant, and what convinced couples wanting children that children had the best chance for success when they are raised in wedded unions, were values and norms passed down and modeled by family, society, and venerable social institutions (e.g., church and school). But times have changed, and so have the norms.

In the U.S., 65% of all births to African American women are to single, never married, mothers. Marriage is fast becoming obsolete, while lust and the urge to reproduce have remained steady.

“Be fruitful and multiply the earth.” Back when this particular little moral injunction was thought up a girl of fourteen was looking forward to packing up her dowry and heading off to live in her husband’s compound and a boy of eighteen was dreaming of soon pitching a tent, bedding a wife and starting a family.

young teens

This past weekend I was listening as two young women in my church were chatting and exchanging news about mutual friends as we all stood around sorting clothes for our annual church yard sale. One of them, a young mother and school teacher said to other as they folded the clothes donated for our children’s boutique, “And then there’s Jessica. We thought she was never going to get pregnant; but she finally did.” I couldn’t resist butting into the conversation. Yelling from the other side of the room, I inquired, “Is that “we never thought she would get pregnant after being married so long?” or is that “we never thought she was going to get pregnant because having a baby is what you do by the time you’re our age, regardless of whether the father is worth marrying or not.”

“Oh Rev. Renita, close your ears. We know you’re from another era.” She doesn’t see the connection between raising fatherless children and the black teen incarceration, the connection between casual sex and sexual transmitted diseases, single parent households and families. She wasn’t a bit ashamed of a minister overhearing this conversation about her single girlfriend who’s just had a baby.

Perhaps she’s right. Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps I’ve lost sight of the one thing Blacks have never had a short supply of: HOPE. Perhaps I’m the one being pessimistic. (Beam me up, Scotty.)

Close your legs. Keep your pants zipped. Are not working with this generation. If ever they did before.

Perhaps Mother Nature knows something we theologians and cultural observers do not. In the end, biology trumps theology. Is it time for a new theology?

It’s Your Sex Life

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

This post can’t be long because I’m here in Hilton Head, South Carolina this morning at The Black Church Institute on HIV/AIDS conference on “Building The Capacity of the Believer to Serve!” It’s a great conference with lots of information about the ways faith based institutions and their leaders can better step up to the plate and respond to the crisis of HIV/AIDS in our communities. After conducting a workshop last night for women only on the topic “In Love and In Trouble: Sex and Black Women in the Church” I had planned on getting on a plane this morning and returning home. But I changed my plans. I’ve got stay around longer so I can face the truth. I knew we were facing a crisis. I didn’t know we were facing an epidemic.

You do know the statistics, don’t you?

HIV related complications is the second leading cause of deaths in the black community.

Did you know that in 2004:

50% of those infected in America are black, compared to 30% white and 18% latino?

55% of those newly infected with the virus live in the south, compared to 29% in the northeast, 11% in the west?

70% of the new cases among teens were among black teens?

67% of new infections among women were among black women?

78% of black women infected got it from having sex with men, compared to 19% who got it from drug use?

A young Spelman College student cried and spoke on a panel yesterday about contracting HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer. “My boyfriend of two years and I thought we were being careful” she said wiping her eyes. Did you know that 80% of women in this country will have HPV by the time they reach 50 years old?

We are the only ethnic group in the US that has not seen a turn around in our infection rates. Why? When it comes to black women, we don’t make our men wear condoms. We don’t talk things out with our partners. Our teens have not been sat down and made aware of the consequences of their at risk sexual behavior. We’ve got to do a better job of getting the word out. AIDS is not curable, but it is preventable. The number one way to prevent AIDS, and other STDs, is to refrain from having sex. The second most effective way is to make sure you use condoms when you have sex. Wrap it up. Wrap it up. Wrap it up.

AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is our modern day leprosy. In the time of Jesus there was no medical treatment for leprosy. Since it is very contagious, lepers were forced to live apart in social isolation. They were supposed to shout, “Unclean, Unclean” whenever they approached a crowd. The only comfort lepers had was to seek the company of other lepers. Leper colonies were sad places in which to live, estranged and away from family and friends. Several times in the gospels Jesus was moved by the plight of lepers and healed them. Healing began, however, with compassion.

I lost a stepbrother to AIDS back in the 80s. He was a drug addict. I lost my best friend from high school to the disease, James Lemons, to AIDS many years ago. He was gay. I have a very close relative who is living with the disease today. He is a very close relative. Chances are that there are other family members, members of my church, close friends battling the disease who’ve never said a word because of the stigma the disease carries in the black community. Perhaps you too have family and friends living with the disease who have not shared their sickness with you. Perhaps your lover or spouse has something to tell you.

Let’s talk.