Over the past year, I’ve been often asked why I compiled the collection of essays that make up Not in My Family (Agate). For me, the answer was simple: innocent people are dying from this disease, and (surprisingly) no other book had really addressed the circumstances of why so many were falling victim to this particular scourge – particularly people of color.

Not in My Family is meant to provide messages of hope, strength, love and understanding to those in our community who have been infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. My goal for this project is to provide a better understanding about the contributing factors that have lead to the spread of this disease.

I also hope that this text will inspire young Americans to become more involved in strategies that will eliminate the further proliferation of this modern day plague.


The year was 1991. Just days before my 22nd birthday, I had just walked into my dorm room when my friend Brett called with the news of Magic Johnson’s HIV-positive status and subsequent retirement from the NBA. I thought it was all a bad joke until I turned to Channel 4 and saw the basketball legend standing at a podium. Damn. If Magic could get caught out there, weren’t we all susceptible?

Okay, I’ll ’fess up – I’m a 34-year-old woman of color, and I’m single.

I should also admit that while I’m a bit nervous about the ongoing search for my soul mate, the idea of enjoying a monogamous marriage, complete with unprotected, mind-blowing sex, is becoming more and more of a distant fantasy. I have not fully subscribed to that tired diatribe that there are no good men out here, but I am worried about the past and present lives, sexually speaking, of the men who are swimming in my dating pool.

To put it bluntly, I’m not sure if I will ever feel fully confident and secure enjoying sex without the benefit of a thin protective barrier of latex.

Aside from my own trials and realities, I find myself even more concerned about the fate of my younger brothers and sisters. While popular opinion suggests that today’s parents are in dire need of a refresher course in child rearing, the fact remains that our youth are continuously bombarded with overtly sexual media and entertainment that is devoid of any shred of responsibility.

Back in the day, I remember being scared by the mere thought of contracting some itchy STD or getting pregnant, God forbid. Swallowing a prescribed antibiotic or having a baby – or not – is mere child’s play when you consider the consequences that the next generation is faced with regarding their sexual health. We now live in a society where young men and women do not have the luxury to make the mistake of having unprotected sex. While I don’t have any biological children to call my own yet, I feel a great sense of empathy for the teenagers who are left to make some sort of sense from society’s bag of mixed messages. We have to do better by them, as they run the risk of being unprepared to endure the aftermath of our irresponsibility.

AIDS kills, period, yet the severity of that message continues to fall upon deaf ears. Statistics, billboards and pamphlets notwithstanding, only we can be held accountable for our own actions. While no one truly knows how the next man or woman may get down behind closed doors, the best thing we can do, individually, is protect ourselves. I’m all for folks doing their thing, but not at this high a price.

So now, when I pray to God to send me that special someone, I also make a point to ask him to help us learn to be more cautious about protecting ourselves and the lives and futures of our children. Imagine the alternative.

Regina R. Robertson is the West Coast editor of Essence and a contributing writer to Venice Magazine. Reprinted with permission from NOT IN MY FAMILY, Gil L. Robertson, editor, copyright 2007.

Gil Robertson IV is currently touring colleges to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. For more information, visit www.notinmyfamily.com.

World AIDS Day is Dec. 1.