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Taking This Disease Personally

Taking This Disease Personally


As it is for so many other AIDS activists, actress Mo'Nique's dedication to HIV education and prevention work is rooted in the loss of loved ones'including her best friend, in October 2002'to the disease. 'I know she'd want me to give something back,' the star of the UPN sitcom The Parkers says of serving as a network spokeswoman for the 'Know HIV/AIDS' initiative and of appearing in public-service announcements targeted at African-Americans, particularly women, among whom HIV infection rates are disproportionately high. The Grammy-nominated comedian and two-time winner of the Image Award from National Association for the Advancement of Colored People finds it particularly upsetting that continuing silence among African-Americans about AIDS issues keeps those most at risk'sexually active youths and women'reluctant to talk about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases with their partners. 'Sex is made out to be taboo, something you do in the dark,' she says. 'You don't have conversations about it. You don't ask your partner, 'What happens if I get pregnant? Are we ready to be parents? What happens if I get HIV'are you willing to stay with me?' Instead, you just do it, and an hour later you starting wondering what just happened and what the consequences of it might be. That's crazy.' Instead, Mo'Nique urges taking personal responsibility for protecting oneself and one's partners from HIV. That includes getting tested for HIV antibodies, encouraging boyfriends and girlfriends to do the same, and having frank, honest conversations about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases with potential sex partners. Most important, the message she drives home in her PSA that began appearing in early January on UPN, CBS, BET, TNN, Showtime, Comedy Central, and in more than 5,500 Blockbuster stores nationwide is to always use condoms. 'I'm not saying not to have sex,' she explains. 'What I'm saying is that it's vital to use condoms. Just do it. Wrap it up. He might be the finest man in America, and she might be the prettiest [woman], but AIDS has no color, it has no special look, and it can attack anyone at any time. Love yourself enough to protect yourself. Love your partner enough to protect your partner. That's all there is to it.'

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