Why Goapele and Raheem DeVaughn Want You To Stay Woke About the HIV Epidemic Among Black People
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I like to pride myself on knowing what’s going on in the world. Not being a know-it-all but basically, when someone comes to me about something plaguing the Black community, I already know a little something about it. I can tell you the amount of time between the officer pulling into the park and when he murdered Tamir Rice: 2 seconds; why was Kalief Browder in Rikers Island: he allegedly stole a backpack; What’s the name of the Black Lives Matter activist who always wears a blue puffy vest: Deray McKesson; how many days has Flint been without clean water: 1,288. See?

I know a little something about something which kind of means nothing but still…I know what’s going on. In preparation for my interview with recording artists Goapele and Raheem DeVaughn about their upcoming event, “Rise Above Campaign“, a national sexual health awareness campaign, I began researching HIV statistics amongst African American women and was dumbfounded. The total estimated number of African American women living with diagnosed HIV at the end of 2013 was 137,504 which makes up 61% of all women diagnosed and living with HIV. More than half of the women in America living with HIV are Black. What are we doing, sis?

I immediately had a theory but it seemed a little too simple so I kept searching for more answers. Goapele suggested that it’s because HIV is so extreme that we don’t think it’ll happen to us. DeVaughn offered that it’s taboo to have contraception. I still couldn’t get it out of my head what the underlying issue was. I said, “If you were sitting with your best girlfriends right now and no one was recording you or taking notes, what do you think the real reason is that Black women aren’t insisting that their partners use protection?”

Before Goapele could respond, bursting at the seams, I said, “Do you think it’s a lack of love for ourselves? Do you think it’s because we are so desperate for love and for a connection that we’ll throw our common sense about sexually transmitted diseases out the door in order to please/keep our partners happy?” Holding my breath, everyone said, “Yes.” I wanted to cry.  Aside from STDs, there is the risk of pregnancy. The majority of the women I know spent their 20s trying NOT to get pregnant. Why are we not using protection?

The other devastating factor, which didn’t come as a surprise was systematic racism. DeVaughn brought up the fact that there are so many Black people without healthcare. He mentioned that Black people are left to fend for themselves in most situations; how Blacks are the last to be sought after; that there is a lack of being proactive. With heavy hearts, we all agreed and nodded. Then Goapele offered, “I think internalized racism is a huge part of it too. The idea of not feeling that you have a future and not being invested in the future.”

It’s hard to argue that when Sandra Bland had just moved to Texas for her new job and Trayvon Martin was walking in his neighborhood before being murdered by the off-duty neighborhood watch. Feeling overwhelmed, I asked Imara Canady, Chair of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition, what the “Rise Above Campaign” was all about. “Campaigns like “Rise Above” indicate that there is no one particular face of HIV and that we as a people must come together to address this epidemic that’s disproportionately impacting the lives of our community. We need to normalize the conversation around sexual health and wellness in our places of worship, in our homes and with each other.”

Samantha Granberry, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for AHF Worldwide. “We want to stress that getting tested isn’t anything about your character. Make it about your health.”

There are many resources across the country:

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 700,000 individuals in 38 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare

WORLD (‘Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Diseases’) is a diverse organization for, by, and about women living with, and at risk for, HIV/AIDS. WORLD improves the lives and health of women, girls, families and communities affected by HIV through peer-based education, wellness services, advocacy, and leadership development. We envision a world where women, girls, and families affected by HIV and AIDS have the tools, support, and knowledge to live healthy and productive lives with dignity. Our vision is rooted in a commitment to human rights and wellness with the understanding that this includes freedom from violence; access to housing; quality healthcare; food security; physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing; education and economic justice.

AIDS Atlanta Since its inception in 1982, AID Atlanta has been providing HIV/AIDS-related services, care, and education.  The agency was established in response to the devastating impact that HIV/AIDS was having on gay men in Atlanta.  In the face of fear and bigotry, founding members volunteered their time to provide support and education.  The organization quickly expanded to engage Black and Latino populations and meet the evolving needs of our diverse community in response to the epidemic.  Today, AID Atlanta offers a broad range of services and has grown to be the most comprehensive AIDS service organization in the Southeast.  AID Atlanta currently offers HIV/AIDS prevention and care services, including (but not limited to) Primary Care, HIV/STD Screening, PrEP, Community HIV Prevention Programs, Linkage Services, Case Management, and a state-wide Information Hotline.  The mission of AID Atlanta is to reduce new HIV infections and improve the quality of life of its members and the community by breaking barriers and building community.

In the area of HIV outreach and education, AID Atlanta continues to actively work in communities of high impact to reach those most at risk of HIV and/or living without knowing their status.

REED FOR HOPE FOUNDATION (RFHF)/LOVEHEALTHY.ORG, mission is to improve the vitality of the global village by changing specific cultural attitudes about wellness, disease prevention and health disparities through the strategic implementation of messages that impact pop culture. We aim to inspire our friends, our partners and our communities to join us in raising our voices on targeted health issues while bringing focus, action and HOPE to causes that enhance the quality of living for all.