Even though this bella is an avowed wearer of flat shoes, just for today I’m rockin’ a pair of red pumps — all in the name of a righteous cause.

Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, in 2005, women represented 26 percent of new AIDS diagnoses (compared to only 11 percent of new AIDS cases reported in 1990).

Women of color are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, and AIDS is now the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34.

I’m part of a team, 95 bloggers strong, who are rocking the red pump today in the name of HIV/AIDS awareness.

I am fortunate. I grew up in a loving, open, and supportive family, and also my father spent years working for CAREC, the Caribbean Epidemiology Center, which was primarily responsible for AIDS education and awareness in Trinidad and throughout the Caribbean. Needless to say, I’ve always been made aware of the importance of sexual safety, and the necessity of getting tested for HIV and other STDs.

Many other people are less fortunate, and far less informed.

I’ve met people who still choose to believe that AIDS is a disease that only afflicts the gay population. WRONG. And note I said “choose to believe,” because that can only be willful ignorance in this day and age. And I said “met” because I can’t be friends and hang out with folks who are that willfully ignorant.

I’ve known quite a few people who haven’t been tested for STD’s before having unprotected sex with people they hardly know.

And saddest of all, I’ve known people who have refused to get tested. They’re afraid of what they might find out.

Today, I implore them, and everyone else, to wake up.

AIDS doesn’t discriminate according to your race, gender, sexual orientation, class, or country of origin.

Today, I and the rest of the Red Pump crew encourage you to get tested and get the facts about HIV/AIDS.

If you live in Chicago or Kansas City, there are special Red Pump events taking place near you tonight! Click here for the details!

Bellas, fellas – if you’ve got something to say about the state of HIV/AIDS awareness in the community, please speak your piece! If you’re involved with or know about a great HIV/AIDS charity in your neighborhood, please share it with me!

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