Candice Wiggins’ finger bandage was a proud badge of honor: “I know my status now,” said the eight-year WNBA guard, who recently was tested for HIV and AIDS. The results were negative.
Wiggins recently was in town with the New York Liberty, who she signed with as a free agent in March. She was the third overall pick in 2008 by Minnesota, who her team played against in a June 1 exhibition game in downtown Minneapolis. Before the contest, Wiggins visited the Minnesota AIDS Project.
“There’s still a stigma there with our community,” she stated. Wiggins has been an outspoken advocate for Blacks and other people of color to get HIV and AIDS tested — her father Alan Wiggins died of complications from AIDS when she was a preschooler. She started a non-profit foundation shortly after she became a pro basketball player, and Wiggins has been active in promoting testing ever since.
While getting tested, Candice learned some more startling statistics:
- Over 300 new cases of HIV were reported in Minnesota last year, a two-percent increase from 2013.
- Nearly 8,000 people in Minnesota are known to be living with HIV but it is not known how many other Minnesotans are living with the deadly disease but haven’t been tested.
- 32 percent of newly reported HIV cases in 2014 resided in Minneapolis, 14 percent in St. Paul, and 40 percent in the Twin Cities suburbs, and 14 percent in Greater Minnesota.
- 17 percent of newly diagnosed cases are African-born persons, and 20 percent of such cases are African Americans; nearly 1 in 5 new HIV infections in 2014 were foreign-born persons.
- Women of color made up 80% of the new cases among women in 2014, with African-born and African American most disproportionately impacted.
- HIV cases attributed to injection drug use is low in Minnesota (2 percent of new infections in 2014).
“It’s just staggering,” noted Wiggins. “The numbers are almost devastating. I learned a lot.”
Nonetheless, “There are so many options now, even if you [have tested] positive,” she continued. “There are so many different medicines you can take. I wasn’t aware of how much advancement is going on” in this area.
As a result, Wiggins says she will keep talking about this issue: “I have a new focus and new understanding,” she concluded.
Information from the Minnesota AIDS Project and the Minnesota Department of Health was used in this article.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edited 6/9/2015 3:00 pm