What are some solutions to this?
There are a number of things we can do. We’re created equal and so we’ve been able to deal with rich communities where they are, some people are very much into the arts and so artistically we’ve been able to get messages out through song, poetry, rap and plays. We’ve been able to work with people who are more politically inclined around advocacy⎯just basic education, just talking to our kids and letting them know, I love you. I don’t need that little boy around the corner to tell you I love for you to feel like you’re loved. You don’t have to find it because I love you. So we create a sense of importance for our young people so that they don’t have to do other things. We also need to talk to them. We can easily say, “Oh I don’t need to talk to my child about sex or HIV” but trust me, if we don’t somebody else will. So we need the message to get out to our children. They need to hear it from us. So those are the things we can do. Empower youth and educate them so that they can grow up to become leaders and educate those within their peer groups or those younger than them. And then we need to lean on our kids more to ask them about solutions because they have great ideas too.
How can parents talk to their children, a lot of adults find that to be a scary process?
I’ve seen parents absolutely terrified to talk to kids and that’s foreign to me but that’s a reality for many parents so in those situations, that’s when I go back to the support we can do this alone. We have got to be more supportive of one another. If I’m scared to talk to my child then I need to find someone who I trust to talk to my child. But at the end of the day, adults have got to serve as the catalysts. They have to be the ones to start having these conversations with our kids and let them know it’s ok to talk about it. Sex is natural, those feelings are natural but they always don’t have to be reacted upon.
Where can people get more information on where they can go to get tested?
Yes. Most places are now providing information electronically so if you contact your local health department or community organizations that provide HIV prevention services they can refer you to a 1-800 number that provides not only the hours of the testing clinic but the location and whether or not it’s free. They can also provide you with a text number and what happens with text numbers is you text it your zip code and then it will text back a list of HIV testing sites in your area or you can go online.
How often should people get tested?
Well, it really depends on the behaviors but one rule of thumb is every 6 months. But once again, people know what they do and it doesn’t have to be shared with everybody but if you feel like you’ve engaged in behavior that has put yourself at risk for HIV you need to consult a counselor and they can provide you with guidance in terms of how you should be tested for HIV. The sooner you know, the better.