It’s hard to fathom that HIV is still the 5th leading cause of death for Black men and the 7th for Black women between the ages of 25 and 44. That’s higher than any other racial group! For the past 26 years though, SisterLove, Incorporated, an Atlanta-based non-profit, has been on a mission to eradicate the HIV/AIDS pandemic by educating Black women especially about AIDS prevention, self-help and safer sex techniques in a judgment-free zone.
“[Many] people think that getting tested for HIV is an once-in-a-lifetime thing and unfortunately, if you are sexually active, if you have more than one partner, or if you don’t know the status of your partner, then you need to be tested every three months,” says Director of Programs Lisa Diane White.
“It’s very overwhelming and daunting for people to think about all the questions they need to ask their sexual partner sometimes before you even know their momma’s name. Sometimes people begin to negotiate safer sex after they’ve already had sex because that’s probably the point where they feel comfortable enough to start asking questions, but by then, you’ve already been exposed and sometimes it only takes one time.”
To raise awareness, SisterLove holds various events throughout the year, including a signature fundraising event known as, “2020 Leading Women’s Society Awards and Leadership Institute” that will take place Friday, October 16. During the ceremony, 20 women who have been living with HIV for 20 years and serve as leaders and educators in their communities will be honored. One hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit the organization.
SisterLove also offers free HIV testing and counseling, but the best way to prevent HIV? “You must be able to comprehensively think about your sexual health. When you’re in a happy, healthy relationship and things are going well and you know your partner’s status and you’re both honest and open, your risk for HIV decreases,” White says. “If you’re struggling in a relationship, there’s no honesty, and you’re vulnerable and just need someone to love you, then your ability to think about your risk decreases and your risk for HIV increases.”
White says the most rewarding aspect of her job is being able to educate Black women on a daily basis, as well as that feeling she gets watching a lightbulb go off in someone’s head.
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“When we talk to women, we reach their children, we reach their partners, so you impact the whole family when you address women because that’s what women do,” White says. “When I’m talking to Black women, I realize that I’m talking to myself. When I’m looking at HIV risks, I’m looking at my own risks. My job is to start these conversations, find out women’s stories and to keep their love healthy and their lives healthy.”
To donate and/or learn more about the organization, visit the official Sister Love website.