The Miseducation of the She-Male

By Matara Wright

“What is the difference between HIV and AIDS? “ A question that many health professionals
assume the general population knows the answer to. However, many individuals do not. African
American women have the highest rates of new HIV cases. Being as we are currently the hardest hit, we
should be actively researching, educating ourselves and seeking knowledge about the virus. No longer
can we afford to wait for health professionals to address certain issues regarding our own health. While
we are lying in wait we are being miseducated by gossip and here-say.

As I participate in various groups and panel discussions, I find it appalling at how little
women know about their own bodies and health issues that directly affect them. I find it even more
shocking that even after being diagnosed and in care for HIV, many women still don’t know the
difference between HIV and AIDS. Is a general lack of knowledge why African American women are
disproportionately affected by HIV? It would appear that what we think we know, may in actuality be
fallacy. If you don’t know the facts, you cannot protect yourself or remain healthy. Do not wait until a
health care professional approaches you, at that point it may be too late. Be proactive in searching for
support groups, testing events, scientific literature, and information on health care websites.

Here are a few facts to begin your quest for knowledge:

Q: What is HIV?

A: HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

Q: How can I contract HIV?

A: HIV is transmitted through breast milk, vagina fluids, seminal fluids and blood

Q: What is AIDS?

A: AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. HIV can progress to AIDS.

Q: How do I protect myself from contracting HIV?

A: Use latex barriers when engaging in sexual activities. Yes, this includes anal, vaginal and oral sex.

Q: How often should I get tested for HIV?

A: Testing is recommended every six months

Q: Where can I get tested?

A: St. Hope Foundation provides FREE HIV testing Monday through Thursday 8am-5pm. Contact us at
(713)839-7111 for more information