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    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | February 4th, 2018


    A few years ago when my sister had told me that she had a love interest, the first question I asked was

    “What is his status?”

    My sister immediately replied

    “Most people would ask, what is his name and what does he do for a living, but your first question is what is his status.”

    I remember in 2004 when the leading cause of death in black women aged 25 – 34 years old was HIV/AIDs. Although that is not the case in 2018, the HIV diagnosis rate for black women remains 16 times as high as that of white women, and almost five times that of Hispanic women. The good news is that the number of black women being diagnosed with HIV has fallen by 42 % from 2005 to 2014.

    Overall, African-Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV in the United States. The CDC projects that approximately one in 20 black men, one in 48 black women , and one in two black gay and bisexual men will receive a diagnosis of HIV during their lifetimes.

    Being infected by HIV is 100% preventable. February 7th is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Carve out some time on February 7th to get educated-get tested-get treated –get talking – whichever applies to you.

    1. Get educated – HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is a virus that attacks our immune system. Our immune system is important for fighting infections. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV is transmitted through sexual contact, sharing needles to inject drugs and from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. You can protect yourself by using condoms for anal or vaginal sex, limiting the number of sexual partners and avoiding using injected drugs. Be aware that there is pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PrEP is used if you are at high risk of contracting HIV for example, being with a partner who is HIV infected. PEP is used if you have been exposed to someone who is HIV positive. It should be used with 72 hours of exposure.
    2. Get tested1 in 7 people are infected with HIV and do not know. The key to stopping the spread and preventing HIV is to know your status. It is important to know your status so that you can make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting the infection.
    3. Get treated – It is important that if you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with HIV, they establish care with a physician and take the medications as directed. The medications are to be taken every day for life. The purpose of taking the medications is to prevent AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and early death.
    4. Get talking – We need to talk about HIV because there are people still dying of this disease. It is important to encourage everyone to know their status.

    For more information on HIV, the CDC is a great resource.


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