Panel seeks to educate students on HIV/AIDS
Eastern Michigan University accounts for about 30 percent of all sexually transmitted infections in Washtenaw County, according to HIV/AIDS Resource Center case manager Sheyonna Watson.
Watson, Myka Herron, president of EMU’s Black Student Union, Rev. Horace Sheffield III and a client from HARC, whose name was withheld due to confidentiality reasons, were panel members for the See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: AIDS in our Community discussion put on by the Black Student Union and You Beautiful Black Woman for AIDS week at EMU Thursday.
When asked why people are afraid to get tested, the general response was that the person being tested would be afraid to get the results back. If the results were positive, they agreed, it would change the person’s entire life and affect how they treat it.
The panel recommended people should start getting tested for HIV when they become sexually active. For the past two years in Detroit, one panelist said, the 14 to 19-year-old range has doubled each year in testing positive for HIV.
The panelists emphasized it was important to get the person that you’re having sexual relations with tested as well.
One panel member, a Detroit pastor, mentioned in his community it was becoming prevalent for boys to take a razor and cut a hole in the condom that they intended to use so that it would eventually break.
He wanted to get the message out to girls to make sure they have their own protection on them and to not rely solely on the male, in heterosexual relationships, to bring the protection.
A big factor in the spreading of HIV is unprotected sex.
The panel was also asked why they believe so many people have unprotected sex.
One answer given was naivety. Many people, including EMU students, do not realize they are at risk. It was brought up that it is not a natural feeling to use a condom, and there is a stigma about a person that brings it up in relationships. They also said it can be awkward to bring it up in a relationship that has not been using them in the past.
“It often makes a moment feel less spontaneous as well,” Watson said. “Sometimes people get so hot and heavy that they aren’t even thinking about condoms.”
Illegal substances were also given as a reason for unprotected sex. When people ingest substances the body isn’t used to, it can often impair judgment.
The panelists were asked why HIV is so prevalent in African-Americans.
The panelists said African-Americans often have disproportionately high rates of many health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes as well. They said this was because African-Americans typically do not have the most beneficial health care and are generally stubborn people who do not go to see a doctor unless they are “knocking on death’s door.”
When the panelists were asked if there is a life after being diagnosed with HIV, they said it is extremely important for people who are diagnosed to join support groups and to talk to people. Isolation, they thought, was one of the worst things that a person diagnosed could experience.
They said you have to be extremely open with your doctor about your behavior and lifestyle at this point so that they know how to help.
They said you have to adjust your lifestyle if diagnosed, because it requires taking medication every day to help keep the condition in check.
“Even if the medicine does help greatly or if we do find a cure, that won’t eliminate HIV,” Watson said. “There has to be a change in behavior.”
EMU’s Snow Health Center offers free HIV testing every Thursday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and the panelists recommend all sexually active or previously sexually active students get tested.