Philly Program Sets Lovers Straight


Rappers often publicize the fact that they sleep around, but rarely mention using protection. AIDS is beginning to take a major toll on our community, so twenty-seven year old Deesha Dyer decided to change all that when she created Cover Your Lover (CYL) in October of 2003. “I started CYL because hip-hop is my love and I was always at shows and concerts where sex was a focus through lyrics or dances or whatever, so I felt the need to just give out protection and inform people of the disease – let them know it’s still out there.” An activist and journalist, Dyer’s CYL program encourages young fans of the hip-hop community to practice safe sex. However, Deesha feels that writing about AIDS is not enough. “My focus in reaching the community is through physical contact. I know that I’m most effective through my program, not through writing about it.” For the past two years, Deesha has attended hip-hop concerts and passed out “protection packets” which consist of two condoms, lube and information about diseases, as well as places to get tested. “It inspires me and other people to do more, not only in the realm of HIV, but throughout the entire community.” Outside of the party scene, CYL goes to high schools and juvenile programs across Philadelphia to talk about safe sex, STDs and abstinence. Nevertheless, Deesha is realistic about current attitudes surrounding abstinence. “I encourage abstinence 100%! But I also know that most of my demographics are having sex, so I’m not going to waste the precious time I have with them preaching abstinence.”

Since CYL started, there have been a few changes in the hip-hop community. Now BET is using the “Knowing is Beautiful” slogan, and although Deesha believes CYL had nothing to do with those slogans, she feels there is a need for more change. “Could you imagine if they had a show dedicated to safe sex?” This is why she plans to push CYL so that bars and clubs have condoms in their facilities at all times. She also has plans to start a scholarship fund for students whose parents are HIV positive, a teen testing program and even has aspirations of embedding CYL in different cities. “More young people are getting tested, using protection. I’ve got our name out there as an organization that people can depend on for information. I just want people to be aware. It’s what I was called to do.”