In recognition of #NWGHAAD day, the Red Pump Project (@RedPumpProj on Twitter) uses red shoes as a symbol of empowerment to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDs on women and girls, and there’s no way in the world was I about to let this soapbox opportunity pass by—and involving friends from southeastern Connecticut to be part of this was icing on the cake. So I asked my family/friends to texted me photos of themselves rockin’ red pumps (and other red shoes). We wanted to make sure the nation knew we care and are doing our part to increase HIV awareness, prevention and testing (thanks to those who sent in photos).
I also feel compelled to give a special message to sisters of the African diaspora. We account for an overwhelming number of HIV cases nationally. There was some good news—Black women saw a 21% decrease in new HIV infections, but the estimated rate of HIV infection is 20 times high as that of white women and nearly five times as high as that of Latinas.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- At some point in their lifetimes, an estimated 1 in 32 black/African American women will be diagnosed with HIV infection, compared with 1 in 106 Hispanic/Latino women and 1 in 526 white women; and
- Young women aged 25 to 44 accounted for the majority of new HIV infections among women in 2010.
The CDC also estimates that of the approximately 1.1 million people living with HIV, 1 in 5 are unaware they’re infected. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services/Office on Women’s Health estimates that every 47 minutes a woman in the U.S. tests positive for HIV.
Closer to home, Connecticut ranks 2nd NATIONWIDE in percentage of AIDS cases among women and has the fastest growing rate of HIV in New England. These are our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, friends and lovers.
Family, friends—we must do better.
The numbers of people that are unaware of their infection are mind-boggling. Testing opportunities are more available, easier and quicker than ever. Talking about sexuality, sex, safer sex practices may not be easy, but make no mistake—it is necessary. We need to have conversations with our children, friends, partners and parents. Schools need to be implementing age-appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education—now. HIV prevention messages also need to be coming from the pulpit to congregations- regularly. I’ve said it before and will say it again- please don’t think HIV can’t happen to you—there are millions of people living with HIV who may have thought the same thing. Silence is no longer an option. Complacence is no longer an option. Inaction is no longer an option.
Across the nation, “Harriet Tubman Day” is being observed, because she and others risked life and limb so that we could be free. Let’s do what we can to honor her sacrifice by taking control of our health, our families’ health and our communities’ health. Our health is our responsibility. Knowing your status and that of your partner is critical. Check out this PSA from Ms. Hydeia Broadbent (@HydeiaBroadbent on Twitter) about the importance of knowing your status: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otUA2C5rIkQ&feature=youtu.be.
SisterFriends: There is something each and every one of us can do to turn the tide.
Get educated. Get involved. Get tested. Get treatment. Get empowered.
Getting to zero new infections is possible— WE’VE GOT THIS!