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Jan 14, 2005

This is a wake up call to all Garinagu concerning the HIV and AIDS epidemic rampant in our community. For years now our culture has been in denial in regards to this disease. We cannot continue to hide from this ever growing problem among our people. HIV and AIDS is currently contributing to the direct decline of the Garifuna population.

Ignoring this serious issue only puts us at a greater risk of getting infected. Garifuna communities in Central America and the United States are living with the HIV and AIDS virus and getting infected at an alarming rate. Our risky and careless behavior only increases our chances of contracting this mortal virus. We need to first accept and acknowledge the presence of the HIV and AIDS virus among our people and within our communities. We need to get educated and trained about the dangers of the disease and do away with all of the stereotypes and myths associated with it. We need to learn about the different ways HIV and AIDS is transmitted and how to avoid getting infected.

The problem that lies among the Garinagu is not the lack of education, but the lack of recognizing and accepting that this virus is killing our people slowly but surely. Risky behavior, promiscuity, multiple sex partners without the use of proper protection like condoms, is some of the issues we need to address and educate our people about. We all have to work united in the fight against HIV and AIDS. I call upon the many community based organizations and their leaders not only in the United States but in Central America to start working together diligently in educating, training and saving the lives of our Garinagu. HIV and AIDS awareness starts at home. We can all contribute in our society by first taking the initiative of getting tested for HIV. Men, women and sexually active teenagers need to get tested as soon as possible. It doesn’t cost a thing to do it in the United States. Any city, county or community clinic in your neighborhood should be able to provide free testing for all regardless of your immigration status.

We need to re-evaluate our lifestyles and see if we are taking unnecessary risks with our lives. Do you know who you’re sleeping with? By having a one-night-stand with one partner, you are practically having sex with all the people he or she has been with. No one can be 100% sure in this day and age that they are in a monogamous relationship. Just because you are faithful, does not mean your partner is. Condoms should always be used when you have doubt or you are not sure that your partner is being faithful. It is always better to be safe than to be sorry.

Within our community, the majority of the men seldom use condoms. We as Garifuna women do not insist on our men using them. We seriously need to take responsibility of our own bodies. We cannot and must not leave the responsibility of the safety of our health and life in the hands of another person. Those women who are dating men, who are incarcerated, need to be precautious. The fact is that you do not know what goes on behind those prison walls. HIV and AIDS are rampant inside the prison system. Have you ever heard of men who live the Down Low lifestyle?

One interesting fact is the migration of HIV and AIDS virus in and out of the Garifuna communities in Central America and the United States. We are the importers and exporters of the virus to and from our villages, towns and cities. . Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism quotes: “parts of the South Bronx are trying to cope with an alarming increase in AIDS deaths among the Garifuna, black Central Americans, the majority of whom are from Honduras.?

The vast majority of HIV and AIDS cases in the Garifuna population are heterosexually transmitted. This means transmission between a man and a woman. Drug and alcohol abuse in our culture also leads to risky behavior. There are brothers and sisters who get so high and so drunk that they can not even remember what they did the night before. Remember that HIV and AIDS can be prevented; however, it is up to the individual to protect himself or herself to avoid spreading or contracting the virus. Get with it and get tested now in order to make sure you are protected and if in fact you are HIV positive, then seek the appropriate treatment. Live better and longer. Take care my Garinagu brothers and sisters.

If you need information on how to access and/or obtain services for free, please contact your local community clinic. Any comments please write to: mamagapg.yahoo.com

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