I remember in 1984 during the Democratic primary, just two years into the pandemic Rev. Jesse Jackson would visit these AIDS hospices where mostly gay men were sent to die. He would even spend the night at one hospice as a way to show compassion for the throw-away of society. Ronald Reagan was President and he hadn't even mentioned AIDS out of his mouth and the death toll was raising beyond anything we understood.
The early images and information on AIDS in the 80's spilled over into the 90's and it stuck to us like gorilla glue.
While Magic was being ostracized by his fellow NBA teammates, my upward mobile friends where cracking jokes about HIV and I sat in silence and suffered. Treatment was mediocre at best and AIDS was a death sentence for sure.
I can image what went through Cicely Bolden's mind, I know because I've been there. You meet a guy and you like him. You really like him. You want to tell him that you have HIV but you are afraid of rejection. I mean no one wants to be alone. You have those butterflies in your tummy all the time, so it seems. You know you should tell him, but you just can't bring yourself to do it. I remember once in my early days, I was "this" close to having sex. We started out kissing and cuddling and I could feel his penis raise. OMG, I liked this guy, he was rich and successful and had been working on me for months. He was in town visiting and as we lay on that plush bed, in that plush five star hotel I was in absolute turmoil.
If you don't want to fuck, then you shouldn't do the things with him that leads to fucking. Yes, no should be no, but by the same token, a woman must take ownership of who she lets feel between her legs. LADIES, feeling between your legs and on your breast sends the single you want to fuck. That's the bottom fuckin line. Stop playing dick and pussy, its very dangerous.
But back to the topic at hand. I mean, I had wanted to tell him before it got that far, but the words just wouldn't come out of my mouth. He got harder and harder and I started to panic. I felt it was morally wrong to not disclose my status, but we had gone so far how do I stop?
So I was literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. He laid on top of me, grinding his hard dick against my body and I lay their in chaos. I knew I had to bite the bullet. I just knew it. I whispered,
"I can't. I can't do this."
"I can't, I'm not ready." I mumbled.
"Ain't you on the pill?" He asked.
At that moment I knew there was a God. This was my way out. "No I whispered." There was a deep sigh and he rolled off my body.
That was the last time I saw him. Not because he didn't try, but because I preferred to walk away rather than being outright rejected. He would later learn my HIV status like many others, when I told my story on the cover of Essence magazine.
I understand what must have gone through Cicely's head. It had probably gone to the point of no return and she just didn't know how to say it. Then after the sex, she started to feel remorse. She needed to be honorable. And honestly it's never to late to do right a wrong. So she told. She told. She told. She told; And telling caused her life.
Yes it was morally wrong for Cicely to not disclose up front, but it should not have caused her life.
The Facts Stand For Themselves
1. It's 20 to 1 that a woman will infect a man. The fact of the matter about 15% of the men in the United States are infected because they had a sex with a woman. Men infect woman, woman rarely infect men. Most men in this country are infected from having sex with another man or through the sharing of needles with someone who has HIV.
2. The latest research is clear. If a person is infected with HIV and their viral load is non- detectable it's about a 2-3% chance that they would infect their partner, even if they use NO condom.
3. If a person knows that they have been exposed to HIV and seek a prophylaxis treatment with 72 hours it will reverse the HIV. They can take a HIV medication cocktail for 30 days and it will destroy the HIV in their body.
So you see, the chances that he is actually infected are slim to none. And they could have acted fast and put him in a preventable treatment just on GP. That's why HIV education is important for both the infected and the uninfected.
So how did we get to this point? Like For real... For real? Like don't everyone know what I know about HIV? It's not just about lack of education but about the stigma and shame that still overshadows all common sense around HIV.
We have got to move beyond the stigma and ugliness around HIV/AIDS. We must do it as a nation and as a people. African-Americans we must get a grip. I say this because African-Americans are 52% of all HIV cases in the United States and we are 12-14% of the population.
- Families must stop talking about those in their families infected with HIV and start talking to them.
- We have to create an environment where people are willing to disclose their HIV Status from our families, home to our churches.
- In fact, we must create an environment where it's even ok to know your HIV status.
- Pastors must stop preaching condemnation from the pulpit and begin to preach the love of Jesus. Pastor Jakes said last Sunday that we show we are a Christian, when we love our neighbor as ourselves.
- Testing must take places in our churches, organizations and in our homes. Make it a family affair, make it a sorority and fraternity affair. Everyone of the age of consensual sex should be tested. The more we make it ok to know our status, the more people will feel free to tell their status.
- Pastor's must talk about HIV/AIDS from the pulpit about HIV as a health issue and also make sure that their members have all the practical information about sex, not just the biblical information. For some, it's takes a minute or two for salvation to catch up with their living.
- Education for people will HIV must become a part of the equation.
- Traditional AIDS organizations must step up to the plate like they did in the early days of the pandemic when white men were being buried everyday
- We must all become a part of the solution and stop being a part of the problem. We must examine our own lives and communities and ask the most basic question of what must I do to help bring about change, to end, stigma and shame. We must all help to create an environment where HIV is viewed as a health issue and not modern day leprosy.