IT AIN’T OVER YET
By Bishop Rainey Cheeks D.D.
It’s been a long journey in this fight against HIV/AIDS and it ain’t over yet!
When you look at the stats, African American men are still the highest infected group. When I’m asked why, I remind people that it’s still another weight on our backs, along with all the other injustices that we fight each and every day. I used to wonder why in this time and age, with all the information and education, how it was that people are still getting infected with this virus. What did we miss in prevention and outreach and all the campaigns we put in magazines and on buses and even got into TV shows? With new treatments and prevention like PrEP for those who are HIV negative, we do have the ability to bring HIV to an end. At first, I wanted to give an easy answer and then I realized that was the easy way out. It’s not about how to get people into treatment; we know the answers to that. With treatment people can live a long and healthy life, but before treatment you must love yourself enough to go get tested!
When I’m asked to talk with someone or to groups about regiment and treatment, the first statement I make to them is “Give me 3 reasons you desire to live.” I am often amazed at the answer. Often, the first response is “I don’t know.” This may seem like a strange question to ask when we are talking about treatment, but I ask this question because it will tell me just what you are willing to do to fight for your life. This question is for everyone that desires to live a healthy life. What are you willing to do to stay healthy, regardless of your status? Your self-esteem is so important. Whatever you truly believe about yourself, you are going to find a way to prove it. If you don’t love yourself what does it matter if you aren’t taking your meds, if you are driving drunk or if you are staying in a bad relationship? But when you love yourself, you are going to have that conversation about sex without shame or guilt. When you love yourself, you will use protection; use PrEP to stay negative and if you are positive, take your meds to live a long and healthy life.
Do we have the ability to stop this infection? YES, WE DO! Let’s love ourselves enough and each other enough to truly create a healthy, loving community. We have the power to do this. The question is “Do you love yourself enough to do your part?”
It Ain’t Over Yet…but it can be!
In Love, Bishop Rainey Cheeks D.D.
Bishop Kwabena Rainey Cheeks, D.D. is the Senior Pastor of Inner Light Ministries UCC and one of the founding members of Us Helping Us: People Into Living.