Let'sStopHIV

This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. 

All opinions are my own.

Growing up, my mother always told me, “It only takes one time to get pregnant!” Well, it took more than once, but her words rang in my ears throughout my young adult life. When my daughter grows up, I’ll tell her, “It only takes one time to get HIV!” Unfortunately, I must educate her about a disease that disproportionately infects African Americans each year. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), blacks made up approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population in 2010, but accounted for about 44 percent of new HIV infections. And since the epidemic began, more than 260,000 African Americans with an AIDS diagnosis have died. Unless the course changes, at some point in my daughter’s lifetime, an estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with the disease.Therefore, my birds and the bees talk must be edited to include a powerful message about HIV and pregnancy.

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As my little brown girl grows out of her busy bee stage and into an African American adult, I’ll have that talk and guide her on her journey through life. I can’t protect her against everything and everyone. Along the way, she’ll meet a lot of people–some of which will be HIV positive. She won’t respond the way I did. As a child, I thought the disease targeted only homosexuals or promiscuous people. As I got older, I got the facts from my family, teachers and doctors. But I never knew someone actually living with the disease, most likely because they were too afraid or too ashamed to speak out about it. In the 90s when I attended high school and college, I was a part of The Invincibles–the twenty-somethings who took risks and lived to tell about it. The risks included jumping off of a cliff at Rick’s Cafe in Jamaica and jumping into bed with a stranger with an accent so sexy you would sign your life away. And in this case we could have literally done just that. Ended our lives, or maybe just the lives we dreamt about.

More than a decade later, I am raising my daughter to be a bit smarter than her mom. I’m arming her with the facts she needs to stay safe and to fight stigmas. I want her to know that those living with HIV are real people—mothers, fathers, friends, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, partners, wives, husbands and co-workers. That’s exactly what the CDC’s campaign–Let’s Stop HIV Together–is helping me to do. The campaign is giving a voice to mothers, just like me. Participants of the Together network include mothers from all walks of life. These women have moving stories to share – about the lengths they went through to protect their babies or children, the stigma they endured, and the strengths they drew upon when they found out about their diagnoses. The difference between us–I received negative HIV test results over the years, and they didn’t.

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Take Masonia for instance. She got tested time and time again. But one time, she got a positive result. Then she tested positive again–on a pregnancy test.

Another mother, Michelle learned about her status when it was too late. She couldn’t protect her child from HIV–something that is very possible with medication. But she’s showing her daughter that the disease doesn’t define who you are and who you can become.

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At first I cried tears of sadness when I began to work on this story. As I wrapped up my writing, tears well up my my eyes. But this time, my eyes and hearts fill with hope and pride. Masonia and Michelle’s strength and outlook inspire me to live out my dreams. You can help stop HIV by supporting this campaign. LIKE the Act Against AIDS Facebook page, and continue the onversation on Twitter. Follow #StopHIVTogether.

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on teh Board of Directors for Big Sisters Big Brothers and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp Campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 2 1/2-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expnded the family to include 40+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the president of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endownments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

  • http://www.brownmamas.com Cindy Mendoza

    OMG this is such an important topic. I don’t have a daughter, but at 12-years-old my son and I have already had the conversation about the consequences of irresponsible sex (which is unmarried sex in my opinion). Thanks for writing this. #stopHIVTogether

  • Margaret

    I’ve had the converdsation with my daughter and its a constant reminder to myself. Its amazing how our conversations to our children have had to change over the years but its still a conversation that needs to be had #stopHIVtogether

  • Janeane Davis

    I have been tlaking to my children about protecting themselves since they were little. If we are going to eradicate HIV/AIDS we must talk to our children and make HIV protection part of the regular protection education we give.

  • http://mypocketfulofthoughts.com/ Arelis Cintron

    In highschool I was on a committee through an local organization that teamed up with the American Red Cross to teach Peer lessons about HIV and AIDS .. it was called T.A.P. Teen AIDS Prevention … we learned a lot and got to do a service for our community. We took a trip down to DC for AIDS awareness day in December, I was maybe 16/17 it was an experience and a half. Thank you for sharing this!