Sex and relationship issues are always a hot topic, especially in Atlanta. And with the city ranking in the top 10 on the Centers for Disease Control’s list of new and existing HIV/AIDS cases, a conversation about sex, relationship and health is vital.
On Tuesday, the Spelman College Department of Student Health Services, in conjunction with the Reed for Hope Foundation and OraQuick, will host a celebrity relationship panel discussion as part of OraQuick’s “Life. As We Know It.” campaign and Reed for Hope Foundation’s “LoveHealthy” initiative to do just that– dish on dating, relationships and health.
The “Life. As We Know It.” campaign was designed to encourage students and attendees to get tested and be aware of their status for conditions like sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, breast cancer, and blood pressure, which disproportionately affect the African-American community, especially women.
Created by Emmy Award-winning casting director Robi Reed, the Reed for Hope Foundation’s “LoveHealthy” initiative focuses on wellness, disease prevention and health disparities. The partnership with OraQuick makes the health element the easy topic considering it is the first FDA-approved oral swab in-home test for HIV-1 and HIV-2.
Catherine Witherspoon, with the Atlanta Daily World, got the scoop on some of the dating and relationship topics to be discussed on Tuesday with Dr. Rachael Ross, physician, sex expert and co-host of the TV show “The Doctors.”
Ross will facilitate the discussion with fellow African-American women and celebrities like Demetria L. Lucas, author, life coach and relationship expert; Jacque Reid, national television/radio personality and veteran journalist; Eva Marcille, Reed For Hope Ambassador, actress, television host and fashion model; and Naturi Naughton, Reed For Hope Ambassador, actress and singer-songwriter.
ADW: What do women, and men, gain from dating and relationship discussions and what makes the “Life. As We Know It.” campaign different?
Dr. Rachael Ross: Sex is everywhere around us – on TV, on the radio, in our music, and in our lives – but we never talk about it in honest and open terms. We talk around it. With 64 percent of all new HIV cases in women being specifically in Black women who have contracted the sexually transmitted infection from having “heterosexual sex” and being in “heterosexual relationships,” it’s time to talk about these relationships and the sex that we, as Black women, are having. It’s time to air our dirty laundry, compare notes, and learn safer ways to have sex, discuss the concept of mutual monogamy, and know your HIV status.
The “Life. As We Know It.” campaign is completely different than anything I have ever seen and it’s certainly different from anything I’ve ever taken part in. It’s a safe place to talk about these issues that affect us all very deeply. The campaign specifically targets my demographic: African-American women ages 25-45, which I am a part of, my sister is a part of, my nieces are a part of, and my friends a part of. HIV disproportionately affects us, and I am ecstatic about the opportunity to be part of a movement designed to compel us to get tested, to demand that our partners test, and to practice safer forms of sex. This campaign is right in line with my life’s work.
ADW: Do you believe that dating and relationship issues are more prevalent in Atlanta, in the Black community or everywhere?
RR: Dating and relationship issues are issues worldwide, but in the Black community these issues are directly affecting our health. Our issues are deadly.
ADW: I like that you have partnered with OraQuick and the Reed for Hope Foundation. How did that come about?
RR: Last season on the TV show “The Doctors,” I preformed an OraQuick test on air for a patient that was scared to test. Afterwards I maintained the relationship with the OraQuick people and we worked together last year on National HIV Testing Day and to design this campaign targeted to specifically reach African-American women in a way that focused on relationships. I met Robi Reed through my work with OraQuick. We all want to decrease the spread of HIV in the community and a huge part of that is in testing. So my relationships with OraQuick and The RFHF make more sense than most relationships.
ADW: What is the likelihood of finding love once you’ve tested positive for HIV/AIDS?
RR: Highly likely. Love is all around us every single day, and anyone can find it. Young people, old people, rich people, poor people, healthy people, and people with illness. The problem now is that we aren’t getting tested for HIV yearly or in between partners, so many of us have found love with a person who already has HIV, we just aren’t aware of it.
ADW: Are there some HIV/AIDS myths you can dispel that plague the African-American community?
RR: The myth that HIV is rare. In metro Atlanta and Washington DC it is estimated that 1 in 4 Black men are HIV positive. HIV is all around us.
ADW: What do you want people to take away from this event?
RR: I want them to be able to have discussions with their partners, friends and family about safer sex and about the importance of knowing their HIV status. I want people to leave with the self-confidence to have those tough conversations and to move from deep levels of denial. When that happens, I know that I’ve played my part in this movement.
ADW: Is there anything you would like to add that our readers and attendants would like to know about the “Life. As We Know It.” event?
RR: It’s going to be fun! How could an event with the focus being on sex and relationships not be fun?…and I guarantee you will learn something that could potentially affect the rest of your life!
The panel discussion is free and open to the public. The event will take place Oct. 22 from 3 pm – 4 pm at 350 Spelman Lane S.W. Atlanta, GA 30314.