Life-Changing Decisions + A Woman’s Worth

Actress and model Melyssa Ford will be serving up a four-part series on the state and importance of black sexual health, delving into the topics AIDS/HIV. Be informed, be safe and protect your worth.

Here is a proposed statistic for you: it’s said that no less than 60% of African American women are single in this country, and they say that’s the low end of the statistic. It’s safe to assume quite a lot of us are currently in some stage of the dating game. With all of our social networking activities, we’ve increased the amount of perspective partners we have access to 10 fold.

Now, we all have our checklist of things we look for in a man (provided you aren’t looking for the second coming of Jesus in the form of Adonis, like Chilli was!), but I wonder where do health and all communication on things related fall on your list of priorities? It goes without saying, right? It’s top priority, but the statistics on the spread of HIV in the African American community don’t really support this notion.

African American women are still disproportionately affected by the spread of HIV. They are 15-20 times more likely to contract it than their white counterparts and three times more likely than Latina women–the third largest cause of death amongst African American women. That basically says that a large portion of us are a) not getting tested, b) not practicing safe sex and, c) not carrying around our negative test results and demanding that our partner show us proof of the same or the cookies STAY in the jar!

But what about those women who contracted HIV from an unscrupulous partner while in–or what they thought was–a monogamous relationship? Were they expected to ask for their partner’s status report every six months? Aren’t relationships built on trust? Yes, they are, but… Consider the situation faced by Marvelyn Brown, a beautiful chocolate sister who’s an enthusiastic advocate in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and co-author of the book The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive. She’s been living with the disease for eight years; she contracted it while in a monogamous relationship when she was 19 years old.