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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Sex, self-love and HIV/AIDS
Activists contend what's missing from conversaton can lower infection rates
Published Wednesday, April 24, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

Every day someone in Mecklenburg County receives news they are HIV positive. With an infection rate averaging seven new cases each week, Mecklenburg has the highest rate of infection in the state.

DeVondia Roseborough believes positive self-esteem will help curb HIV infection rates in young African Americans.

Kareem Strong sees the impact on a daily basis. He is director of programming for Different Roads Home, a non-profit agency that provides services – including support groups, mentoring and education – to HIV-positive individuals.

Through his work, Strong sees the toll the disease is taking on the African American community, which in 2010 made up 76 percent of all new cases, up from 69 percent in 2006.

“The great thing is that the rates of infection for African American females in Mecklenburg County is going down,” said Strong. However, he adds, in order to make more progress, the conversation about the disease would have to change.

Let’s get real

For starters, Strong said the conversation must go beyond just discussing HIV/AIDS.

“Mecklenburg County has the highest rates of infection across the board,” he said. “It’s not just HIV. It’s other infections as well. A lot of times we focus on HIV, but there are so many other infections we need to be concerned about such as chlamydia, which is America’s number one sexually transmitted infection. There is also the rise in HPV (human papillomavirus).”

Strong said another major issue in Mecklenburg is the rise of syphilis.

“HIV and syphilis seem to go hand in hand,” he said. “And our syphilis rates here are through the roof.”

He said another issue to be addressed is the fact that using a condom every single time doesn’t necessarily make one safe.

“There are so many things that we do before we put a condom on that can possibly put us at risk, not just for HIV but for other things,” he said. “And once you contract other things, it puts you at a higher risk for contracting HIV.”

Strong said too often people underestimate their risk of exposure because they are married or in long-term committed relationships.

Kareem Strong, director of programming for Different Roads Home, a Charlotte nonprofit agency.

“Monogamy is a wonderful word, but it’s only powerful if it’s accurate,” he said. “It’s sad. We see infidelity everywhere around us. However, many of us think that it’s everyone else but us. And that’s where the problem is.”

Most importantly, Strong said conversations about HIV/AIDS should address low self-esteem among young African Americans.

“Until we deal with our issues around self-esteem and self worth, this virus will not go anywhere,” he said. “We often don’t understand the connection between our self worth and sex… If you respect yourself as a young lady or a young man, then you wouldn’t give yourself so freely. We don’t connect the dots to that. Everybody isn’t worth it.”

Looking for love 

Low self-esteem was definitely the issue for 41-year-old DeVondia Roseborough, who freely admits to a promiscuous past.

“I was overweight, dark-skinned and wore thick glasses,” she said. “I just felt I had to work with what I had. My sexual organ was something that I could control. I was good at it, so I used that to my benefit. I thought I could attract someone, keep him and change him. But it didn’t work like that.”

Instead of attracting a life long partner to give her the love she desired, Roseborough contracted HIV. She received her diagnosis in 2003.

She grew up without her biological father and said she was always looking for the love and affection of a man to ease the rejection she felt.

“I was looking for love in all the wrong places and from all the wrong people,” she said. “I was trying to find the love that I was yearning for from my father. I just wanted to be held and caressed in the way that a woman is supposed to be.”

In 2005, Roseborough founded the Rasberrirose Foundation, a nonprofit agency geared towards African-American women and girls struggling with low self-esteem. Her hope is to encourage a healthy sense of self-worth in young women that will deter them from making risky decisions, such as having unprotected sex.

Roseborough is well known in the community for her activism in the fight against HIV/AIDS. She’s published a memoir, and her story has been featured in local and national media outlets, including HLN’s “Breakthrough Women.”

Still, she said many of the men she dates have no idea who she is or that she tested HIV-positive until she discloses the information. Most often it’s something she shares without being asked because many of the men never inquire.

While, some men instantly run in the opposite direction upon learning her status, for others it’s seemingly no problem at all.

“A lot of times they don’t care,” she said. “They honestly do not care. It’s not that they just don’t want to know; they do not care… Some didn’t even want to use a condom to have sex. You would be surprised.”

Roseborough encourages every adult who has a young person they care about to hold a candid and transparent discussion about sex, self-love and HIV.

“If they don’t feel comfortable doing that or being transparent, then they need to pick up the phone and call myself, Kareem or another professional who can help facilitate those conversations,” she said.

Related article:

On the Net:

Different Roads Home


DeVondia Roseborough




Thank you so much. A willing vessel being a servant to help others in our community.
Posted on April 25, 2013
WOW!!! Looking good, D! This is so real and unfortunately, it is a reality for far too many people in the world. This great article and continued education is a step in the right the direction. Would love to work with Different Roads Home......Be blessed!
Posted on April 25, 2013
This is an excellent article! The comments by Mr. Strong and Ms. Roseboro ring so true! I commend them on their efforts! Thank you Charlotte Post and hopefully these types stories on the impact of HIV/AIDS will continue in your great paper that will inform others on this serious community health issue. Thank you!
Posted on April 24, 2013

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