*“Now I need to draw your blood, Ms. Hendrix,” said the health examiner as she rifled through her supply box to find the needle and rubber armband. I am such a pansy. I can’t watch while my blood is being drawn. “Now that I’m done, I need you to sign here and indicate who you want the results sent to in the event your HIV results are positive. You can have them sent directly to you or your doctor,” she said. Whoa! I paused for a second, exhaled then casually checked the box that indicated I wanted the results sent directly to me. “Thank you, Ms. Hendrix. A comprehensive work up will be done and the results will be available in about three days.” I was applying for life insurance. And many insurance companies not only want to know your medical history and vital signs, they require applicants to submit blood and urine samples to determine their insurance risk. What are they looking for? Diabetes. Hypertension. High cholesterol. Drug use. HIV/AIDS. The question about where to send my test results in the event my results were positive was unexpected, even though I knew my status was negative. But what if I didn’t know my HIV status? Those would have been the most agonizing days of my life. If you recall, in 1991 NBA basketball player Magic Johnson discovered he was HIV positive when he tried to obtain a life insurance policy. Well, I received my report. Every test was negative. I’m healthy as a thoroughbred mare and I could probably command a heft dowry if I wanted to get hitched up. But I wonder how many others, especially women, received their report and discovered they had failed their HIV test? It’s a question that must be asked particularly when, according to a newly released report by the Black Aids Institute, 1 in 2 African Americans in the United States infected with HIV don’t know their HIV status.  Secondly, African American women account for nearly 70% of all new HIV/AIDS cases in the United States. Many women – particularly mature, educated professional and economically empowered women – find out they are HIV-positive during routine health screenings when they become pregnant, when applying for a new job or promotion, a life insurance policy, and some have even found out during a deathbed confession muttered by a boyfriend or a spouse. And when they do, it can be devastating — especially when they thought they were in a monogamous relationship. The average woman doesn’t believe she is at any serious risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, especially if she’s married or doesn’t sleep around.  Besides, those whom we have come to believe are at the greater risk of becoming HIV-positive are women that work in the sex industry, those who use intravenous drugs and younger women who haven’t committed to a life’s partner. But if we keep it real, the woman who is at the greatest risk of becoming HIV positive is the woman staring back at you in your bathroom mirror, and unequivocally if she is having unprotected sex whether she is in a monogamous relationship or not. You see, HIV/AIDS simply doesn’t discriminate based on age, profession, income, or marital status. So what do you do now after this wake-up call? The Black AIDS Institute has four simple recommendations: 1.      Get informed. Get the facts about HIV and learn how to protect yourself. Visit www.BlackAIDS.org. 2.      Get tested.  Get tested with your partner. Know your HIV status. If you are negative, stay that way and protect your status as you would protect your life. And if you are positive, make sure the transmission of the virus stops with you. 3.      Get treated. There are many treatments that can help you improve the quality of your life and help you live with the virus. It is no longer a death sentence. 4.      Get involved. The Black AIDS Institute implores us all to get involved in our communities and churches in ending the spread of this disease, today. While you are at BlackAIDS.org, download their latest report “Passing the Test: The Challenges and Opportunities of HIV Testing in Black America,” released in June of this year. It will open your eyes and open your mind. (If you have comments about Veronica’s View, email them to [email protected].)###