Tag Archives: HIV

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: It’s World AIDS Day 2019 – Do You Know Your Status?

December 1st is World AIDS Day – do you know your status? If you don’t, you really should get tested, especially if you’re a Black woman. No, really. You should!

This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community”. This couldn’t be a more fitting theme, because as a community of Black women, we still have much work to do.

The good news is, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), between 2010 and 2016, new HIV diagnoses have declined by 25% for African American women. This is a better decline than seen globally, where new HIV diagnoses overall have declined by 16% since 2010.

But, like I said, we still have work to do. Consider that while HIV diagnoses have declined, in 2017 (the most recent year statistics are available), women in the U.S. made up 19% of the new HIV diagnoses. Of that number, 86% were infected by heterosexual contact, compared to only 14% infected by injection drug use. Half of the women infected that year were 25-44 years of age. What’s especially troubling for our community is that 59% of the newly infected women were African American. That’s more than half!

Even scarier, the CDC says that 1 in 9 women with HIV don’t even know they have it. That’s not surprising, considering HIV testing rates among women are alarmingly low. With 86% of new infections coming from heterosexual contact, that means that nearly 4 decades after HIV/AIDS was first discovered, there are still far too many Black women out here having unprotected sex with men!

The CDC says that in general, receptive sex is riskier than insertive sex. That means that women have a higher risk of getting HIV through vaginal and anal sex than their male partners. And, while we may not want to admit it, too many of us don’t know the risk factors of our male sex partners. When you then add the fact that women are less likely to get tested, it’s no wonder we’re still seeing so many new HIV diagnoses among Black women.

Here’s what I need you to do: GET TESTED AND LEARN YOUR STATUS! 1 in 9 of y’all are walking around out here infected and missing out on life-saving medications and treatments! If you’re 25-44 years of age and engage in heterosexual sex, then you’re at an even higher risk.

First thing tomorrow morning, make an appointment with your doctor or plan to visit a clinic. Consider it a form of self-care, if you will. And remember, an HIV diagnosis isn’t the death sentence it used to be. But you MUST get tested to get the treatment you need to prolong your life.

So get tested and know your status. Let’s end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our community now!


#WorldAIDSDay #GetTestedKnowYourStatus #GetTested #KnowYourStatus #WorldAIDSDay2019 #EndTheEpidemicNow

Coming Soon Near You: HIV Drug Ads Targeting Black Women

Whether we know it or not, we Black American women are more likely to be infected with HIV than any other women. And, we are more than twice as likely to be newly infected than Black men. Southern Black Ladies are at even more risk!

These days we do have more options. Truvada – the drug that treats HIV/AIDS – also works for prevention. Taken daily at a lower dose, healthy people can avoid contracting HIV. It’s a pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP.   But, Truvada PrEP isn’t well known among us, and many primary care providers like obgyns aren’t that familiar with the drug either.

Although PrEP was rolled out in 2012, it hasn’t caught on for a lot of reasons, especially among “us.” Well, U.S. public health officials and non-profits are out to change this. They’re on a mission to bring ads to communities, especially to African-American women, across the country.

A big challenge is not a lot of Black women are into taking a pill every day to prevent a disease they could prevent by keeping their pocket book closed or making their man wrap it up. But, PrEP is particularly appropriate for women who have infected partners – or men who refuse to wear condoms. You need to know your HIV status though, which means getting tested regularly. Having PrEP as an option makes getting tested and insisting your partner get tested regularly a little easier. A little easier… right? Not always an easy conversation to have but a necessary one.

New York City’s PrEP campaign came out over a year ago under the name “Play Sure,” aimed at the general at-risk population. The results are still being reviewed. But, it is clear African-Americans aren’t using PrEP as much as their White and Latino counterparts.

Washington, DC just rolled out their big PrEP campaign last December called “DC takes on HIV,” aimed at Black women. Women in DC are particularly at risk because 2% of residents are already HIV infected; AIDS is an epidemic there. DC’s campaign aims to have 90 percent of D.C. residents aware of their HIV status, 90 percent of D.C. residents who are diagnosed with HIV seeking treatment, another 90 percent who are already under treatment achieving viral load suppression and a 50 percent overall decrease in new HIV cases. Okay now…

The Black Women’s Health Initiative – the only organization dedicated to improving the lives and health of the U.S.’s 21 million Black women and girls – rolled out their campaign. A big message of theirs is 1 in 32 Black women will become infected with HIV.  Articles in newspapers are showing up in old school Black press like the L.A. Sentinel and elsewhere, targeting Black women.

As we roll into 2017, let’s take time to reflect and determine how we will make the new year AIDS free.

The HIV-Killing Condom Is Here… And A HIV-Killing Tampon Is On Its Way…

By now, you have probably heard it’s here: a condom that gives you that extra protection so you can kick back and get your grove on with less worry about infection – and more focus on pleasure.

Condoms with HIV-killing VivaGel® lubricant will be available in Australia in just a few months. Developed by an Australian biotech company, VivaGel kills HIV, other viruses such as HPV and HSV (herpes), as well as your run-of-the-mill STDs.  Such super condoms will be introduced by Ansell,the world’s second largest condom manufacturer, under the brand name  LifeStyles Dual Protect™ After hitting Australia, the condom should come out in Japan and eventually make it to the U.S.

But, did you also know the HIV-Killing tampon is in development, as well? As recently reported by salon.com, a group of University of Washington researchers is developing an HIV-fighting tampon that would dissolve within minutes inside your vagina before sex to fight HIV. But, the novel product is still in clinical trials. It may take five years or more before the feminine product makes it to the shelves in the U.S. and else where in the world.

But, if you plan to use the HIV-killing condoms to get your grove on twice a day for two weeks or more, a critic says the ground-breaking barrier method could cause irritation and inflammation making you more susceptible to HIV and HPV. HPV researcher Anna-Barbara Moscicki, M.D., a pediatrics professor at University of California, San Fransisco reported to The Huffington Post that VivaGel, as an intravaginal cream, caused mild irritation and inflammation in her test subjects. However, the professor’s study used a higher concentration of the drug than the condoms will. 

Equally important to note, VivaGel is also being developed to provide relief for bacterial vaginosis. Vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of the normal vaginal bacteria which can produce an unpleasant odor in the genital area. 

New Recommendations On How To Prevent HIV/AIDS

Ladies, did you know that in the US, HIV-infection rates are no longer going down and at the same time condom use continues to fall?

What to do?

US health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are now recommending that Americans at high risk of infection take Truvada(R), a pill from Gilead Sciences.  Truvada is the only drug approved for both HIV prevention – and treatment

SuzyKnew! first brought you news on Truvada back in May 2012, when it was approved by the FDA to prevent HIV/AIDS in addition to its use as treatment. At the time, the CDC declined to recommend the drug to stave off HIV infection, despite the FDA approval. Now the organization has changed its mind. According to FiercePharma, fewer than 10,000 patients use Truvada now. But, that could rise drastically – as much as five-fold – if more people follow the new guidelines. However, it could take quite a while for people to start using the drug for prevention, even though it could save and extend lives.

It’s definitely great news that there is now more than one way to prevent HIV/AIDS. We need all the ammunition we can get. But, we all know condoms are the only way to prevent both HIV and STI’s. Plus, condoms are drug-free.

Keep it sexy!

Keep it healthy


ASK AN OBGYN: How Important Is It To Use A Condom For Oral?

Question- How important is it to use a condom for oral?  Can I get herpes, HIV, or anything else? Does it make a difference if the oral is done on a girl or a guy?


This is a great question.

The short answer is YES!

It’s been hammered in our heads to use condoms for vaginal and anal sex, but oral?  To most people this is a confusing area.

If you have not seen your partner’s recent HIV and STI test results, YES, you should use male condoms and female condoms or another barrier method such as plastic wrap for the vagina.    STIs can be transmitted from the “giver” to the “getter” and back and forth and back and forth (you get the picture).   They can be transmitted through giving oral pleasure to the penis, vagina or anal area.  

But, you should know, in general, the risks of contracting the big uglies are less with oral sex, compared to vaginal and anal.    There are several reasons for this, but the most interesting is research showing that our saliva actually strips down viral proteins– Wow!    However, there are some viruses that love the mouth and some bacteria that thrive in the soft tissue in the throat.

Here is a short-list of the most common sexually transmitted infections that can be transmitted through oral sex:

HIV– According to the CDC, it’s hard to know the exact risk for HIV transmission through oral sex, but clearly the risk of getting HIV through oral sex is lower than vaginal or anal sex.  Your risk of contracting HIV (or any other STI) is higher if there is a sore, broken skin, or the presence of blood or ejaculate.  Oral sex should be avoided is one partner has bleeding gums, oral ulcers, genital sores, or another STI.

Herpes-  This is one that we should all be concerned about.  Herpes is extremely common, in fact between 65%-85% of adults will test positive for herpes by the time they reach age sixty.  That’s right, your grandma may test positive for herpes! Oral herpes (HSV-1) is what most folks call a “cold sore”.   Genital Herpes (HSV-2) is a sore found on, you guessed it, the genitals.   Here’s the problem- HSV-1 and HSV-2 are not polite enough to stay on their carpet squares and will spread to other areas.

Increasingly, doctors are seeing oral herpes (HSV-1) show up on the genitals and vice versa.

Gonorrhea-  Here’s another big one.   Remember when I said that some STI’s like to live in your throat?  Gonorrhea will camp out there, too, and unless you are tested, it can be spread very easily through oral sex.   It’s a very common STI and it’s on the rise.   The CDC estimates that 820,000 people in the U.S. get new gonorrhea infections each year and that less than half of these folks know they have the disease and receive treatment.  To make things even more interesting, gonorrhea is emerging as a super-bug and multi-drug resistant strains have been found in several different countries including the US.

HPV-  We know that HPV causes cervical cancer and is spread through vaginal sex, but new studies show a link with oral sex and throat cancer.   A recent report from the American Cancer Society shows that HPV is now a more common cause of throat and other oral cancers than tobacco.   Wow!   Check out this awesome infographic from Mount Sinai Hospital illustrating the risks of HPV from oral sex.

Hepatitis A, B, C-   Hepatitis is a chronic liver disease that can lead to cancer and even death.   There are vaccines for Hepatitis A and B, but not for C.   Hepatitis A is highly concentrated in  feces, and can be easily transmitted through oral sex involving anilingus.  Hepatitis B and C are viruses spread through blood and semen, and carry the same risk profile as HIV, so a lower risk compared to vaginal and anal sex, but still nothing to ignore.

Keep your oral pleasure sexy and keep it safe!


S. Brockman, RN, MPh.


ASK AN OBGYN is not meant to be a substitute for your doctor or health care provider. Contact your provider with any health issues you may have.

What Do Women in Washington, DC, Nigeria, And Rwanda Have In Common?

What do women living in Washington, DC, Nigeria, and Rwanda have in common? They are living in places that have an HIV/AIDS rate of 3 percent.

As the 19th International AIDS Conference closes in Washington, DC, we’re reminded of how much African-American women, especially those living in urban areas, have in common with African women regarding contracting HIV. As the Huffington Post, BET, the Root, and major news networks have reported, AIDS is the number one killer of African-American women between the ages of 25 – 34, which is also the case in some African countries. While AIDS has become a feminine disease in sub-Saharan Africa and remains a masculine one in the States, Black women, regardless if they’re African or American, contract HIV from their partners unknowingly.

The conference follows Johns Hopkins’ March 2012 announcement that HIV rates for US Black urban women are five times higher than previously believed. Ladies, the HIV hot spots for us are Washington, DC, New York City, Raleigh-Durham, Baltimore and Newark. Stay protected.

But, there are bright spots. The epidemic continues to decline. Also, our teens in the US are getting the safe sex message, as they are in certain African countries such as Uganda. So, there are places where the young aren’t taking as many sexual risks as they used to.

Also, earlier this summer, SuzyKnew pointed out that we now have new products to help us protect our sexual health like the new in-home version of OraQuick® allowing you to quickly take an HIV test in the privacy of your own home and the anti-retroviral Truvada® that the FDA just approved for preventive use, by taking daily.  So, if you suspect your man may be seeing men – and he refuses to use a condom or take an HIV test – you can still protect yourself from HIV. (That is while you work on getting a new man…smile)

Stay healthy and sexy. Let’s see what the 20th AIDS Conference brings.



OraQuick, An In-Home HIV Test, Is Approved


Ladies, have you always wanted to take an HIV/AIDS test but just couldn’t muster up the courage or the time? Well, finally you can take an HIV test in the privacy of your own home and get the results in only 20-40 minutes. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved OraSure’s in-home version of its lab diagnostic for HIV testing, OraQuick.

In many countries, large percentages of people pass on the HIV virus to their partners because they do not know that they are infected.  In the US, where 20% of the population is unaware of their HIV status, there are many reasons people don’t get tested. These reasons include not wanting to discuss the topic with their provider as well as providers not offering the test.  Also, not everyone has a regular doctor, and there are many people who don’t want to be seen entering a clinic to get tested.  Not to mention the cost and time factors that are involved. In the US, HIV infection among Black women in large cities is the same as it is many African countries. AIDS is largest cause of death for Black women, and many do not know they’re infected.

OraQuick is an oral test (no needles and blood work here!) and is expected to retail around $40, with a launch date set in October 2012. Its availability along with Truvada®, an antiretroviral that can now be used for prevention, has given women more ammunition to protect themselves against infection and from infecting others.

Be healthy and be sexy!



Unsafe Sex Feels Like My Only Option For Love: ASK JANICE

Big Girl

Dear Janice, I know all about protecting myself from HIV and pregnancy, but I find my options for men are really limited. I’m a big woman in her mid 30’s, and I feel that my options for love just aren’t the same as they are for other women. How can I find the strength to turn down men who refuse to use condoms or won’t get tested? I want to be loved…


Dear Big Girl:

Girl, please!  The average female orgasm lasts between 10 and 30 seconds.  That short-lived burst of pleasure is in no way worth your life!!!

Look.  I understand where you’re coming from.  I’m plus-sized gal, myself.  So I recognize that we live in a world in which a size 2 has a better chance of getting a date on a Friday night than a size 22.  I know what it’s like to be the wallflower in the dance of life where all your skinny friends are on the dance floor having a good time.  And I totally understand that no matter how brilliant and loving you are … no matter how great your personality is, most men are visual creatures and want a certain “type”.

I get it.  I feel your pain, Sistah.

But hear me when I say that I’d rather spend the rest of my Friday nights alone with my vibrator, than spend even 10 seconds in the arms of an idiot who is too dumb to protect himself and too uncaring to protect me!  I am far too precious to be bothered!

First of all, there are lots of men out there who prefer a woman with “meat on her bones”.  And I’m not just talking about those “chubby chaser” freaks who get off on fat girls.  (But, don’t hate on the “chubby chasers”!  After all, there is someone out there for everyone!)

No, I’m talking about real men who will find your curves comforting and a soft compliment to their male hardness.  I’m talking about men who’d love to grab ahold of every wiggly, jiggly inch of you and take you for the ride of your life!  Yes, Big Girls, these guys are out there.  You may just have to look a little harder to find them.

I know we’ve been cautioned about the dangers of internet dating.  But, one advantage to looking for love online is that there are sites for everyone … even for people who like dating larger women.  I can’t personally vouch for any of them, and I would advise you to proceed with caution.  But, if you’re willing to risk your life with a guy who wants to play in your rain tunnel without a rain coat, then you’ve got to at least be willing to give one of these sites a try.

In the meantime, remember this: no one will love you unless you love yourself.  Yes, there are some “Shallow Hal’s” out there.  But most people are attracted to confidence.  Trust me.  Wearing confidence and self-love is better than putting on make-up, wearing designer clothes, having a new hairstyle … heck it’s even better than Spanx (and I can’t think of too many things better than Spanx for a Big Girl)!  When you go out there fully armored with self-love and confidence, you’ll attract the guy you’re supposed to be with.

That’s not to say we can’t all stand to improve upon ourselves.  You know what you need to do to lose weight.  I don’t need to lecture you about the merits of exercising and eating right.  But do it for health reasons and to make yourself feel good. Hey, we’re all works in progress, right?

In the meantime, embrace your curves, Big Girl!  Think of yourself as Full-Bodied like a fine wine, rather than just plain old full-figured!  And if you value yourself as the beautiful work of art you are, then it will be easy for you to walk away from those fools who don’t think enough about themselves or you to use protection.

Who needs them, anyway?  You’ve got you … and until your Mr. Right comes along (loving every inch of you and with his own box of condoms, thank you very much), you’ll be just fine!

You can ASK JANICE your intimate love question by emailing ASKJANICE@suzyknew.com

Is Truvada® the Faithful Black and Asian Woman’s Protection Against HIV?

Ladies, you know the statistics: Our communities have been hit hard by HIV, and we as women are in many instances more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS than men. Whether you live in New York, Jo’Burg, Lagos, London, Manila, or L.A you know that you are more at risk of getting HIV from your man than white women even if you’re faithful to him! Many of our men are not truthful about their Kaoreke ladies or the other women… or other men… they have on side, leaving us vulnerable to many sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS.

I’ve seen faithful women in the US, Africa and Asia fall victim to AIDS due to their partner’s lack of faithfulness.

But, has our time come? Do we now have a weapon to protect our lives when we can’t get our men to use condoms. Truvada®, a pill currently used to treat people with HIV, could prevent infections among those at high risk, according to recent studies. Two groups would be targeted for this new use, including  couples where one person is infected and the other isn’t. This means if your man is on the low down or unfaithful you could protect yourself.  It also means that if you’re HIV positive, you can greatly reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to your partner. The regimen would require daily use to be effective, which means taking it every day. It can be 90 percent; but, in the real world, it has not been more on the level of 44 to 73 percent effective.

Truvada®, manufactured by Gilead, is up before the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval as a preventive treatment for HIV/AIDS. Ladies, stay tuned for more on this drug. It could be our chance to take more control over our lives – literally!


ASK AN OBGYN: Is There a More Effective “Morning-After” Method?


Dear SuzyKnew Obgyn:

Besides Plan B (also called the morning-after pill), is there any other way to prevent pregnancy if you’ve had unprotected sex?




Dear LaVinia,

Thank you for your question.  Yes, there are other ways to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.  One that has been successfully used for over 35 years is the intrauterine device (IUD).  Inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex, the IUD can reduce the incidence of pregnancy by 99%.

A study published May 5 online in the journal Human Reproduction, reviewing over 35 years of data in 6 countries on the use of  IUD’s as an emergency contraceptive, indicates that IUDs are actually more effective than the morning-after pill. Although getting an IUD inserted requires a doctor’s visit and more upfront money  than the morning-after pill, which only requires a trip to the pharmacy and a few dollars or pounds, the IUD – a long-term method – is a lot more cost-effective in the long run. This means, if leave an IUD inserted (IUDs can remain in place for more than 8 years), it will only cost you pennies per pleasure session!

While many providers in the US (unlike in the UK) may not mention this discreet medical device as an emergency contraceptive or “morning after” option , take it upon yourself to ask your health care provider to discuss using an IUD for EC the next time the occasion arises.

P.S.  To protect yourself from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, you’ll still need condoms with an IUD until you both have a recent HIV test. Keep it safe, ladies!


ASK AN OBGYN is not meant to be a substitute for your doctor or health care provider. Contact your provider with any health issues you may have.