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Campaign urges HIV testing for black women

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Sondra E. Z. Hines, AILT, is an adjunct professor of health & wellness and is certified to teach group fitness exercise and Zumba. Wednesday Wellness - Fitness News You Can Use is published weekly. Email: sondraezhines@yahoo.com.

This past weekend, I did something for the first time.

While attending a women’s health symposium as a panelist, I took my first HIV test on Saturday March 10, 2012 — National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The test, involving a blood sample, took less than five minutes and was free to everyone who attended.

I didn’t plan to take an HIV test; however, in-between sessions, that testing booth was next door to the cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure area — my intended destination.

I figured: “Why not? After all, it’s free.”

Upon answering a few basic questions, I was jolted by the wail of a women shrieking. While a calm phlebotomist attempted to obtain a blood sample, she frequently grumbled that the small needle hurt her arm.

Despite that horrible incident, I decided to remain. I’m glad I did. My prick, by the same phlebotomist, was quick and painless. (By the way, the woman left. I wish she stayed to get tested.)

HIV/AIDS is a major health issue among black women. We are especially hard-hit by HIV/AIDS in: Atlanta; Chicago; Detroit; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Houston; Memphis, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; New Orleans; Hyattsville, Md.; and St. Louis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a fitness professional, I’m aware of the importance of regular checkups, health screenings and living healthy. But the thought of taking a HIV test scared the crap out of me, and I kept putting it off, until now.

In retrospect, I feel silly that fear replaced common sense and my right to know. Likewise, I’m encouraging everyone, especially women to get tested for HIV.

"At current rates, nearly one in 30 African-American women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes," Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said in a CDC news release.

Those are scary statistics.

My HIV test coincides with the CDC's “Take Charge, Take the Test” campaign, featuring community outreach, and advertising, all in an effort to increase HIV testing and awareness among black women. The campaign’s website, which is nicely done, features beautiful images of black women and useful data. (hivtest.org/takecharge).

"To help reduce this toll we are working to remind black women that they have the power to learn their HIV status, protect themselves from this disease, and take charge of their health," added Fenton.

Although Charlotte didn’t land on the CDC list, there are high incidences of STD’s in our area, factors contributing to a major health risk, as HIV/AIDS does.

Read more: Trinity Project: A faith-based approach to HIV/AIDS education

Locally, HIV testing is available at several sites. Carolinas Care Partnership (carolinascare.org), which did my test, holds free HIV testing on Friday’s, 4 p.m.-7 p.m.; no appointment is necessary. For additional free testing sites, visit: hivtest.org/takecharge.

Join me in taking charge of our health.

This Week’s Fit Tip: (In honor of National Nutrition Month): Are you looking to lose belly fat? Drinking 2-4 cups of Roasted Dandelion Tea http://www.dandeliontea.org/dandelion-tea/facts-about-dandelion-tea-benefits can shrink your belly, says nutritionist Rovenia M. Brock Ph.D. Of course the tea should be consumed in conjunction with a low-fat diet and regular exercise.

Until, next time, I wish you good health and wellness!

Editors Note: For more health/fitness-related tales, tips, testimonials and more, visit Qcitymetro's Health page: www.qcitymetro.com/health.

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