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HIV knows no race, gender, age or social status. Whether you’re a celebrity with millions of followers or new born child – You can be affected. In the early 90’s hip hop’s general audience was introduced to HIV and AIDS with Eazy-E’s revelation. Particularly as a heterosexual male in hip-hop, Eazy’s admittance was something of a revolutionary act unto itself at a time when few people understood what HIV and AIDS really were. HIV research and development has come a long way over the years. We have even seen staples within the Hip Hop community transition from their industry careers to being resources in the fight against HIV. Figures like Maria Davis, known for iconic appearance on Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt and Mad Wednesdays, has become one of the stand out faces of HIV for women of color. She recently has celebrated 22 years of living with AIDS. Survival rates have multiplied to the point that those who are affected with HIV are not just surviving but thriving. Thanks to the dedication and support of the medical community now many can say they are living with HIV.
Music and culture go hand in hand. Over the years benefit concerts, outreach and more have been put together to include celebrities and other famous entities regardless of their HIV status. This overpowering support from the movers and shakers in the industry has helped to reduce not only the stigma but continue to bring awareness to HIV.
“The misconception still exists that HIV is a death sentence“ says Dr. Amesika Nyaku, an Infectious Disease Physician and Assistant Professor at Rutgers, New Jersey Medical School in Newark, NJ. “The days of people taking a handful of pills multiple times a day to treat their HIV are long gone. HIV treatment can be as easy as one pill once a day. There aren’t enough conversations in the community about the advances in HIV treatment and so many people live silently in fear of HIV. Have no fear and get tested — it can be free, with a friend, or even at home.”
According to Dr. Nyaku, “it’s all about staying ahead and being aware of options. Condoms, syringe exchange centers, TruvadaÒ for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post exposure prophylaxis). The HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) was created to do this type of research. The HPTN has multiple studies across the world and currently two studies of possible HIV prevention options are going on at Rutgers in Newark, NJ and other sites in New York City. In HIV research, the mantra is “nothing about us without us”. Research cannot be done without the participation of people whose lives or communities have been touched by HIV. If you know that HIV continues to affect those around you, we invite you to come and participate in one of our studies. Your participation can help figure out a way to keep more people in your community HIV-free. Spread the word and get involved. In 2017, people with HIV are thriving! There are ways to remain HIV-free!
“Nothing about us without us!”