D.C. still leads the nation in HIV diagnoses. (Courtesy of MSF Access Campaign)
D.C. still leads the nation in HIV diagnoses. (Courtesy of MSF Access Campaign)

A lot can happen in 30 years – including the beginning and the end of a person’s entire life. That’s the power of, as Prince once noted, “the big disease with a little name.”

Nonetheless, armed with an inexplicable confidence in the inevitable discovery of a mysterious formula – close and yet so far – the sudden and long-awaited answer to an infinite number of prayers –millions of the Earth’s citizens have since saddled up and joined a diverse army of dedicated soldiers – holding fast to the frontline while waging battle against a formidable opponent: HIV/AIDS.

But I can remember a time, and not so long ago, when my greatest fears hovered on far less serious matters like avoiding fatherhood or hoping that I wouldn’t have to face another unplanned visit to the clinic for a round of shots or pills whose impact would quickly allow me to return to my frolics on the block.

That was then – this is now. And so, as World AIDS Day 2018 approaches on Dec. 1, it’s hard for me to fully understand why so many of today’s younger generation, millennials who include my own two children and sometimes act like the world “owes them something” seem more inclined to live as if the conditions they face are more instep with those I faced during the “good old days” – instead of the harsh reality of today.

Despite the insights and knowledge we’ve acquired as well as the medically-proven methods of better protecting ourselves, our health and our lives, far too many Black folks, from teachers and preachers to inquisitive, sex-hungry youth eager to bite the apple no matter what the cost – foolishly allow the stigmatization associated with HIV that’s prevalent in the Black community to deter them from even talking about the taboo topic of safer sex.

Even as more churches, community-based organizations – even nightclubs – now offer free mobile testing, health seminars, education or counseling – new HIV infections in D.C. increased within the last 12 months by 11 percent among men who have sex with men. More disturbing, among youth ages 15 to 19, new HIV infections rose to their highest level in 10 years – 41 percent.

Maybe some people don’t want to know the truth. Maybe some folks don’t care what happens to their bodies because of newly-developed medications that make HIV seem about as problematic as a nagging cold. The theme for this year’s global activities all targeted toward eliminating HIV/AIDS is “Know Your Status.” But more than that, it’s a clarion call to us all to be more diligent about protecting ourselves, our earthly temples. It’s about living life more responsibly.

I’ll admit, I did some foolish things during my teens and 20s. Somehow, I escaped relatively unscathed. But I can recall a host of others who I knew back then: cousins and kinfolk, good friends, party pals, mentors, roadies and adopted brothers and sisters – many more whose names I barely knew – all of whom were less fortunate than I. They had the misfortune of coming head to head with the “big disease with a little name.” And they died quickly and agonizingly after suffering in ways more painful than I chose to describe. That’s why we remember them and take our message to anyone who will listen on World AIDS Day. After all, life is such a blessing and a gift. Shouldn’t we treat it that way?

Wake up, young people. Wake up, everybody! Wake up, world!

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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