By the numbers
20,022: Of the number of people living with HIV in Houston/Harris County, 14,879 are men and 5,143 are women.
10,000: The number of those people living with HIV here who are black/African-American. Some 5,054 are white, 4,585 are Hispanic and 383 are other/multiethnic.
1,334: The number of new diagnoses of HIV in 2011 in the Houston area, including Chambers, Fort Bend, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller counties.
398: The number of people with HIV who died from HIV or another cause in that six-county area in 2011.
383: The number of new cases of HIV among people ages 13-24, the age group with the highest number of new cases in 2010.
Demetria L. Lucas is a popular blogger (A Belle in Brooklyn), a guest columnist for numerous publications, star of the Bravo channel reality show “Blood Sweat and Heels” and public speaker, but she’s also a staunch advocate for women protecting themselves from contracting HIV.
In part, this is because she is the spokeswoman for the in-home oral HIV test called OraQuick, but it comes from her heart, too. She was in Houston recently for a panel discussion sponsored by OraQuick and stopped to chat on the phone beforehand.
“Black women are still the fastest-rising group” for contracting HIV, she said, even if the stats are getting better.
She likes to coach women on how to talk to new love interests about getting tested before having sex with a new partner for the first time. “In theory, a lot of people would think it would be a difficult conversation, but it’s not as difficult as it seems,” she said.
It’s a lot easier if it doesn’t even involve a doctor’s appointment, if no third party has to be involved. “You can go to the drugstore, have the test in your living room and know the results in 20 minutes,” she said. Couples can even do it together.
She has great public conversations on “the nitty-gritty” of dating, relationships and sex when she speaks to groups, with topics ranging even to such delicate subjects as what it’s like to be the “other woman” and how to “man-share,” both of which also come back to the importance of the testing issue.
Lucas is afraid that in some people’s minds, HIV and AIDS don’t look all that scary anymore, or that people think they can spot someone who is HIV-positive. “People don’t look like they’re sick,” she said. “They don’t look how sick is supposed to look.
And while Magic Johnson has been a great role model, his robust health sometimes works against her message. “Sometimes people don’t think it’s that big a deal anymore.”
In the black community, Lucas said, women may mistakenly think that HIV can happen only to those who engage in promiscuous or risky behavior, or to only certain segments of the population. But the truth is, she says, that a woman may be monogamous – but maybe her boyfriend isn’t. “It really only takes one time,” she said.
The earlier the disease is detected, the better for everyone involved. “It’s most important to get tested and know your status,” she said.
“You need to respect yourself and your partner, know your status and know what you’re working with,” Lucas said.
By Kyrie O’Connor | February 19, 2014