Friday kicked off the first day of spring, so we’re supposed to be thinking about new beginnings, fresh starts and de-cluttering. For the TJMS, one way we try to freshen up every year is with our annual Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day, which encourages everyone to persuade a loved one to visit a health professional.

I really can’t think of a better thing to dedicate or re-dedicate ourselves to than our health or the health of the people we love. So I encourage you to take the pledge to help those you care about live a longer, healthier life.

It’s no secret that African-Americans suffer disproportionately from a variety of diseases that can be prevented, or at least managed if detected in time, including HIV and AIDS. In fact, African-Americans face the most severe rates of HIV infection in the nation. One in 16 black males will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime, and for black women, that number is one in 30. And the sad fact is that many people living with HIV are unaware that they are infected, so unless they are taking preventive measures, they stand to pass the disease on to many more people.

Everyone reading this knows someone who is being sexually irresponsible, and if that person is you or someone you love, this would be a great time to turn that behavior around – because although the statistics I shared with you are frightening, the good news is there are some things we can do to make a difference, starting with participating in Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day. If you get tested for HIV, only good can come of it. If you don’t have it, you can make sure you never get it by practicing safe sex, and if you do have it, you can begin to do whatever it takes to begin to get healthier and to begin to practice responsible sexual behavior.

Visiting the doctor on a regular or at least a yearly basis is important to everyone, but it’s even more crucial to our community. Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day was designed to reduce the gap in health care between African-Americans and other populations, improve access to health care information, provide information to the African-American community and take an active role in helping the special people you love find health care.

We’ve set the date for Tuesday, April 7th, but it doesn’t have to start or end on that date. In fact, we need to take responsibility for our loved ones by setting up an appointment for our family and friends today. If they do not have a regular doctor or lack health insurance, contact their local community health center or health department to find out about free or low-cost care.

And listen, don’t just show up on April 7th and say, “Tom Joyner told me to bring my loved one to the doctor!” Go through the proper channels; make sure you and your loved one are wearing clean underwear, and don’t complain about the old People magazines in the waiting room. Just pretend like you didn’t now that Star Jones had left “The View.”

It’s time for us to become accountable for the things in life that are important to us, and that means taking charge of our health and making sure the people we care about are doing the same. Make the pledge today to enhance and extend the lives of those you love. And take a loved one to the doctor.

For more information about HIV testing in your area, visit

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