Making the test easier to take

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 15, 2008

Running away from a problem is, at best, a poor approach to a solution.

In most instances, it does more harm than good.

Yet, that is the approach most people take when it comes to getting tested for HIV.

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This is a disease that spans economic, racial and gender barriers.

It is simply a matter of taking care of one&8217;s self as well as being responsible for other people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that one out of every 10 people living with HIV or AIDS does not know he or she is carrying the disease.

It&8217;s not a stretch to say that part of that ignorance is due to fear or apathy.

Most people don&8217;t want to think that their lives could change or even end because of their sexual activity.

Since they won&8217;t take the initiative to make sure their bodies are healthy, Selma AIDS Information and Referral is meeting them halfway.

Through its Barbers for Brothers/Salons for Sisters campaign, Selma AIR is making the process for HIV testing among black people more accessible and less embarrassing.

The program not only is proactive in helping people learn more about the disease, it does so in a community environment.

There are few places other than our own homes that are more comfortable than a barber shop or hair salon.

Those are places where friendly arguments and gossip constantly go on. They are places to relax and see old friends. Now they are also places to make sure the people who are at the greatest risk for contracting and spreading AIDS safeguard themselves.

According to the CDC, 49 percent of known AIDS cases in the U.S. occur within the black community. Of those numbers, black women are the most vulnerable. AIDS is the top killer of those ages 25 to 34.

The odds do not get much better for black men ages 25 to 40: One out of every three dies from the disease.

In a community that is two-thirds black, this is more than a wake-up call. This is a challenge. According to statistics from Selma AIR, 195 people in Dallas County are living with HIV. Throughout Alabama, 14,000 people live with the disease.

The key word, however, is living.

Although we are not far beyond the 1980s when the disease was first diagnosed, there has been progress.

Primarily, education has been our No. 1 weapon. The disease is still spreading at an alarming rate, but imagine the atrocities we would have seen had we not known that unprotected sex, transmission of blood and sharing needles are all dangers to our health.

Our knowledge of AIDS has evolved from something that infects and kills homosexuals or something you can get from simple contact into something that is manageable.

There are people living full lives with the disease, and more importantly, there are those who have avoided becoming infected altogether.

Statistics should only be for games, not for human lives. If it has to be at the urging of a barber, hair dresser, friend or family member. No matter what your race or ethnicity, do the best thing you&8217;ve ever done.

Make sure you know.