World AIDS Day, Taking Charge of Our Health

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When Heard does a presentation on the use of the female condom, she works to make it entertaining.

“I personify the female body.  I become, “Vagina,” and I introduce my tools. I get in a costume and I look real pretty and it’s entertaining for one thing and it brings a mood and aura to thinking about sex. Women realize they can have children [who are] not infected. It’s just a matter of safer sex,” she said.

“If you are HIV positive, when it comes to having sex, the person who is most at risk is you because you don’t want to become reinfected. You don’t want to get an STD. That could mess up all your medications.”

Heard said there are multiple strains of HIV, so if a person has a strain that is barely detectable or responds well to medication, subsequent infections could result in contracting a more aggressive form of HIV or render medications less effective or ineffective.

“Some people have a virus that is nonprogressive, but you’ve got to know which kind of HIV you’ve got.”

Being educated about HIV and taking proper precautions helps everyone and women should not be afraid to talk with their partners about protecting themselves.

“This female condom really gives [women] that sense of confidence. I’ve seen women really blossom,” Heard said, adding that women should feel that nothing is more important than taking care of themselves and they should not be embarrassed to ask a man about his HIV status well before the relationship moves toward sex.

“Black women, or women of color are disproportionately infected with HIV. A lot of messages [about knowing one’s status] are geared to gay men, but that message needs to target heterosexual black men,” Heard said. “If so many black women are being infected then something should be geared to black men and women should know [the men’s] status.”

“Before I start skinnin’ and grinnin’ in somebody’s face, that’s one of the first questions I ask,” Heard said.

“If you think you want to kiss him or at that first kiss, ask what the deal is.”

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