HIV is a life changing disease and for this generation, fighting this disease is only half the battle. The rest of this battle is the day to day problems that we as black African Americans must deal with. So, let us break this up and push each other out of our comfort zones. We have to separate facts from fiction, and get on with living together. Get the facts.

I have a question: How many of us know about HIV/AIDS and what’s our HIV status? You must realize that the facts can save your life, reduce misinformation and help you make better decisions about your life and health. So, I urge you to stay in the know.

Now from the expert(s): What HIV/AIDS? HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus can lead to AIDS. Unlike most viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means once you have HIV, you have it for life.

The only way you know if you have HIV is to be tested. HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact and injection drug use.

There is no safe or effective cure for HIV/AIDS currently, but we are working hard to find one, so remain hopeful. Meanwhile, with proper treatment with antiretroviral therapy we can prolong the lives of many people affected with HIV and lower the chance of infecting others.

Where did HIV come from? It was first identified in chimpanzees in West Africa as the source of HIV infection in humans. They think this version of the virus was transmitted to human and mutated into HIV when a person came into contact with the chimps’ infected blood. This virus has existed in the U.S. since the mid to late 1970s.

HIV disease has a well-documented progression if left untreated, and is almost universally fatal because it eventually overwhelms the immune systems – which results in AIDS.

Uncomfortable yet? Well, it gets worse: African Americans accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents. At some point in our lifetime 1/16 Black males and 1 in 32 Black women will be diagnosed with HIV infection. 

Lack of awareness of your HIV status, fear, discrimination, homophobia and negative perception about HIV testing have placed the African American community at higher risk. Many at risk fear the stigma more than the infection and may choose to hide their high risk behavior, rather than seek counseling and testing.

The answer is simple: get tested! Find an HIV testing site near you. The major African Americans church, with the assistance of the Colorado Department of Public Health, is attempting to assist at least 100 people in their community as a part of World AIDS Day. And, as a physician, I am suggesting that each pastor preach a sermon around world AIDS day.