Excuses, excuses: “Rubbers kill the mood.” Or “Condom? Why? You don’t look like you have anything.”

And my favorite excuse of all: “C’mon, baby, don’t make me wear that…I want to feel you.”

I have been HIV positive since 1992, and over the past 15 years I have been in monogamous relationships with men who wanted to sleep with me without a condom, even when they knew my status. I’ve always kept a bowl of condoms in my bedroom and in strategic areas all over my apartment, just in case we got that loving feeling. But then the nonsense would start.

This isn’t just my experience but the experience of many of my sisters, positive or not. It doesn’t get any better among positive couples, either. When I have introduced condoms to positive partners, they’ve often said, “But we’re already positive” or “But we’re both undetectable.” As women, we are raised to please our men, and if it pleases them not to use a condom, whatever the reason, we consider allowing our health to be compromised. We must learn how to empower ourselves collectively, regardless of our status. We must know our worth and place a greater value on our bodies and on our health.

Given all the access to information, free testing and free condoms, I wonder why there are so many news reports, conferences and study panels on skyrocketing HIV-infection rates among women—especially black women. There is no need for another panel of highly educated “experts.” We just need to make our partners start hearing us.

Are you feeling me now?