Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Compulsive Writer

With HIV/AIDS being the leading cause of death for Black women the ages of 25-34 and with the rise of HIV/AIDS cases in cities such as D.C., it is more important than ever to step up efforts to help fight against HIV/AIDS. Fellow blogger Toshia, has joined countless of others who have devoted their time to bring awareness and help fight against HIV/AIDS. Toshia recently shared with “A Word For My Sistas” how she’s making a difference in her community.

Onetta: With HIV/AIDS cases on the rise in U.S. cities such as D.C., do you think enough is being done within our community to educate people about HIV/AIDS?

Toshia: Honestly, no. The ignorance and stigma is still there in terms of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS should be the top priority of healthcare in our community. However, out of respect to those organizations that have been fighting for a number of years, there is noise out here, but again, it just isn’t enough.

Onetta: People continue to practice behaviors that put them at risk of contracting HIV. What do you think it’s going to take for people to realize that they are not invincible to this virus?

Toshia: People will continue those behaviors until it becomes personal. I see it all the time, not only with just youth, but now there is a whole new targeted age group; those over the age of 50+, even senior citizens. We have to get people to understand that just because you are a certain age, have a certain sexual preference, etc., you are not immune. This disease does NOT discriminate. It’s targeting all sexually active people and intravenous drug users.

Onetta: You are part of the Nevada AIDS Action Network and you are an advocate of the Needle Exchange Program in Nevada. Can you tell me about the Nevada AIDS Action Network and the Needle Exchange Program?

Toshia: The Nevada AIDS Action Network comprise of advocates in Nevada who are working on campaigns to overturn the federal ban on funding syringe exchange. A needle exchange program (NEP) would benefit the community in that intravenous drug users could go to a specific location and drop off dirty, used needles, in exchange for clean needles. This cuts down on the transmission of blood borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. There are a number of programs in the U.S. who are successfully doing this and cutting down on infections and proving that this is indeed a positive campaign. Initially, the federal government was against it, especially back in the 90’s because they feared that allowing this type of program sent out the wrong message; that it encourages drug abuse. But actually, it deters it, because with NEP drug abusers, they can get other services and eventually get help to get off of drugs.

Onetta: Why was it important for you to get involve?

Toshia: It’s important that I get involved because I fall into one of the most high risk categories of people who become infected with this disease, a black woman in my thirties. Although I am married and in a monogamous relationship, I still have to take precautions and get tested annually. I have had family members who have died from this senseless disease. I’m sick of the devastation it has caused in the black community and worldwide. I just think it’s important that I do my part in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.

Onetta: You are currently looking for volunteers in the Las Vegas, Nevada area to help mentor undeserved and underprivileged teenage girls? Programs like this are so vital to help shape and change lives. If people are interested in volunteering, how can they contact you?

Toshia: If people are interested in helping me help the youth in Las Vegas, Nevada, please email me at

Onetta: In your opinion, what is the biggest problem facing our teenage girls in today’s society?

Toshia: I just want to touch on what’s specifically happening in my city, Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas is such a unique city being that its dynamics are unlike any other city in America. Only in Nevada is prostitution a legal and thriving business. Las Vegas has been dubbed, “Sin City,” some people travel here expecting and seeking out immoral things and behaviors. It’s not uncommon to walk down on the strip only to find the streets littered with pornographic pamphlets, or have people shove them in your face. Huge billboards advertising job openings in pornographic films and strip clubs. This is what our teenage girls are faced with. The school system is subpar and they don’t have much to look forward to. Black youth here are grossly uneducated about their culture, it’s almost none existent.

Then it’s no secret that the sex industry is glamorized not only in my city, but in the media and in music as well. While they are glamorizing sexuality, I don’t hear anyone singing about the staggering AIDS statistics. So they are selling our girls lies. They aren’t doing anything for their self-esteem (they being media & the music industry). Our girls still have low self-esteem and distorted self-images of themselves.

They still do not believe that being accomplished is something obtainable. They are still being fed the lie of having to “use what they have to get what they want.”

Onetta: In closing, I would like to commend you on your efforts in making a difference in your community. What would you say to encourage others to get involve in their communities?

Toshia: Thank you Onetta, although I don’t do it for the accolades. I do it because it has to be done, because I know we weren’t put on earth to be selfish, but rather to reach out a hand and help someone else. I want to ask people the following; “If they died tomorrow, what mark would they leave on the world? How would they like to be remembered?” That it’s not an option, we must help us in our own communities because if we don’t, who else will?

Toshia is the blogger behind the blog site “Compulsive Writing Disorder” which can be found at

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