Valentine’s Day! Red hearts, pink roses, lots of chocolate and plenty of "baby-making" music to put us in the mood for love...and sex. Well, let me tell you why Stop! In the Name of Love should be your theme song this Valentine's Day.
You know the song by the Supremes. A woman pleads with her lover to stop his affair with another woman. She wants him to acknowledge she's been "good" to him. She hopes he “stops his infatuation” with the other woman, who she has seen once or twice before. And she admits she is afraid she will “lose him forever.”
As it turns out, the scenario in the song dominated the discussion among women I spoke with late last year while planning our Let's Talk About PrEP HIV prevention campaign. The women were as young as 18 and as seasoned as 55+. During each of the conversations with five separate groups, in three different cities, the women acknowledged compromising their sexual health because they didn’t want to lose their man. They didn’t always use protection. But after we talked about HIV and the rates of infection for Black women, they pledged to make a change and demanded we tell other women to: “Protect yourselves at all cost!” “Unprotected sex is not worth the risk!” “If he threatens to leave you, tell him to go on!”
Here’s why. For women infected with HIV in the United States in 2010, nearly 64 percent were Black. The rate of new HIV infections for Black women declined by 21% between 2008 and 2010, but the infection rate for Black women is still 20 times that of white women and almost 5 times that of Latinas! And how do most newly infected Black women become HIV positive? Through sex with men. 87 percent of Black women with HIV were infected through heterosexual sex.
Two years ago, as part of its campaign for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the organizers wrote:
“We know that Black women love hard and love strong, sometimes forgetting about the basic needs of survival when it comes to sexual behavior. We must begin to teach our girls and women that protection is the best thing to use when you do not know the sexual history or HIV status of their partner. We have to make sex a common and comfortable conversation piece to discuss and remove the stigma and shame around it. “
We at the Black Women’s Imperative couldn’t agree more! That's why we created Let’s Talk About PrEP, a campaign to educate Black women about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) as a new way to protect themselves from HIV infection and take charge of their sexual health. PrEP should be a part of your HIV prevention toolkit that includes, knowing your status, taking a daily pill and using condoms. We know it works. PrEP has been proven to be 92 percent effective in preventing HIV infection.
So this Valentine's Day, and beyond, be PrEPared! Stop! In the Name of Love and protect yourself!
To learn more about PrEP, visit letstalkaboutprep.com.