March 10, 2000 is a day that LaTasha Booth will always remember because that is when she learned she was HIV positive. Like anyone, Booth, who was 21 years old at the time, was stunned.
“I found out at a regular medical checkup,” recalled Booth. “I was shocked, hurt and shamed. I was also confused because I didn’t have any knowledge of HIV, except what I had seen on television.”
Booth said she became HIV positive after having sex with her boyfriend, someone she really loved.
“He was on the down low, having sex with other men, which I didn’t know about,” she said.
Despite learning of her HIV status in 2000, Booth only started taking medications two years ago.
“The only reason that I ended up on medications was because there was a lot of stuff going on in my life,” said Booth, a Detroit native,who holds both a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and master’s degree in psychology from Wayne State University. “I started taking medications after putting myself and my health on the back burner since so much was going on in my life.”
Booth wants others to learn from her experience, so she looks for opportunities in which to educate others.
“I’ve been upfront and open about my status,” Booth said. “I have participated in multiple documentaries, appeared in plays, have been on the front page of a Detroit newspaper, and in African American magazines.”
Booth currently works full-time as a juvenile probation supervisor, a position she has held for five years. She hopes to write a book someday, which will chronicle her journey in life, both before and after her HIV diagnosis. She has given countless speeches on HIV across the country.
Now engaged, Booth is almost eight months pregnant. She said there’s less than a one percent chance of pregnant women passing HIV on to their unborn babies, if women take necessary pre-natal treatments.”
According to the Atlanta, Georgia-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans are the ethnic group most affected by HIV, accounting for an estimated 44 percent of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents. In addition, the rate of new HIV infection in African Americans is eight times that of Whites based on population size, and Black gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men represents an estimated 72 percent of new infections among all African American men.
While abstinence is pretty much the only way to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, other people are urged to get tested.
“Anyone that has ever had unprotected sex and/or shared needles to inject drugs should be tested,” Booth said. “Really, HIV can happen to anybody, rich, poor, Black, White or Latino. It doesn’t matter who you are. You can be married, single, male or female. You don’t know what your sexual partners have been doing. HIV doesn’t discriminate. Everybody should just get tested regularly.”
National HIV Testing Day is Saturday, June 27, HIV testing facilities will be administering the test Thursday, June 25. Professional Medical Center will be conducting HIV testing at its four Detroit locations. For more information about Professional Medical Center and a list of its locations, please visit www.professsionalmedicalcenter.org or call (313) 925-4540.