HIV/AIDS: A Silent Epidemic On The Prowl in Black America!

Posted on July 29, 2012 by

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By Bro. Mxolisi T. Sowell / Ozo-Sowande

Overshadowed by the white lies, damned lies and calculated dishonesty of the ongoing political season in the U.S., you may have missed the fact that July is/was AIDS Awareness Month. You may have been completely uninformed regarding the fact that the 19th International AIDS Conference was held in Washington, D.C, July 22-27. It was attended by over 20,000 of the world’s HIV/AIDS “experts,” from over 180 countries, seeking to share information and inspiration in the ongoing battle to end the scourge of these deadly diseases. The theme for the conference was “Turning the Tide Together,” and it focused on the belief that now is a “pivotal moment” in the effort to stop HIV/AIDS.

This “pivotal moment” includes “recent scientific advances that have changed the landscape of the epidemic” and hopes for “the momentum for an HIV vaccine and cure,” that will provide the turning of the tide on HIV and lead to the end of AIDS, said Shawn Jain, a coordinator for the conference. Jain expressed the hope that the conference will serve as “an urgent, science-driven call to action, challenging all stakeholders to harness their expertise, energy and resources to mount an effective and efficient response that can turn the tide on HIV.”

The “pivotal moment” also includes the cost reduction of antiretroviral drugs from $10,000 a year to a more affordable $200 per patient. These drugs control but do not cure the virus. But once a patient goes on the drugs, they must stay on them for life. Stop and the virus comes out of hiding places that the drugs are not able to reach and rapidly reinfects. (See this post in The Economist for further details and a partial summary of conference conclusions: http://www.economist.com/node/21559594.)

(See The International AIDS Society (IAS) closing press statement and request for your signature on their petitions at this link: http://www.aids2012.org/WebContent/File/AIDS2012_PlenaryClosing_Media_Release_27_July_2012_EN.pdf.)

In the 30 years since the first HIV/AIDS diagnosis in the U.S., more than 640,000 Americans lost their lives to AIDS; today an estimated 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the U.S.; one in five is unaware of his or her infection.

While new HIV infections in the United States are estimated to have fallen by nearly 20 percent over the past 10 years, more than a million people in the country are living with HIV/AIDS, with about 50,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year. Additionally, Washington, D.C. is said to have an HIV infection rate higher than 32 African countries.

Regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic among African Americans, a July 2012 Kaiser Foundation fact sheet summary states the following: “Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS since the epidemic’s beginning, and that disparity has deepened over time. Blacks account for more new HIV infections, AIDS diagnoses, people estimated to be living with HIV disease, and HIV-related deaths than any other racial/ethnic group in the U.S. The epidemic has also had a disproportionate impact on Black women, youth, and gay and bisexual men, and its impact varies across the country. Moreover, Blacks with HIV/AIDS may face greater barriers to accessing care than their white counterparts. Today, there are more than 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., including approximately 510,000 who are Black. Analysis of national household survey data found that 2% of Blacks in the U.S. were HIV positive, higher than any other group.

 

The Kaiser fact sheet includes this disturbing finding:  Although Black teens (ages 13–19) represented only about 15% of U.S. teenagers, they accounted for 70% of new AIDS diagnoses among teens in 2010. A similar impact can be seen among Black children.

(Access that fact sheet here: http://www.kff.org/hivaids/upload/6089-10.pdf.)

 

Meanwhile, a posting by Joy Freeman-Coulbary at ThyBlackMan.com reports that a Washington Post study claims, “at least 3 percent of District (Wash. D.C.) residents have HIV or AIDS, a total that far surpasses the 1 percent threshold that constitutes a ‘generalized and severe’ epidemic.” Freeman-Coulbary also relates that D.C.’s Department of Health puts the HIV rate among Black women in the poorest neighborhoods of the nation’s capital at an imposing 12 percent! Additionally, she comments on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the Ora-Quick In-Home HIV Test, which promises a 92% accuracy rate for you or your potential sex partner, in the comfort of your own home, if you prefer not to utilize one of the free testing services that are available all across the country. (See her post at http://thyblackman.com/2012/07/18/are-you-hiv-positive-find-out-from-the-comfort-of-your-own-home/.)

NAACP/Black Church HIV/AIDS Manual

Houston, TX pastor Timothy W. Sloan spoke of feeling the need to talk about HIV/AIDS with his congregation of 3000, but feared that they could be offended,  producing untold negative effects on attendance and/or tithing. When he finally got the courage to address the issue the congregation surprised him – with a standing ovation!

That’s just one of the stories behind the collaborative efforts between Black Church and NAACP leadership that has produced “The Black Church & HIV: The Social Justice Imperative,” a 66-page manual designed to encourage the undertaking of a more assertive, pro-active role in confronting the epidemic by the Black Church. The manual came out during the recent NAACP National Convention (with no help from Willard/Mitt or his posse). It is available at no cost at this link: http://naacp.3cdn.net/93e02bcd4b6cef2aad_pam6yxw29.pdf.

The following quotes reflect the strong spirit of the manual:

“Some pastors’ hesitation to engage in ministry that includes HIV is based in the belief that anything outside of salvation is beyond the scope of the church’s obligation. Some would also argue our theology, doctrine, policies, principles, and values forbid us from engaging in a ministry for people engaging in “sinful” behavior. This view of ministry is very distant from the strong history of the Black Church’s active role in empowering our communities to live better lives.”  -Unidentified source

“Martin Luther King said, ‘There comes a time where silence is betrayal’ … for too long the Black Church has been silent about HIV/AIDS … that is unforgiveable and it has to change. We have a moral, … ethical and spiritual obligation to speak out, to support, and to embrace people who are at risk for, and who are living with this disease.”   – Reverend Charles McWells, Los Angeles

Perhaps a turning of the tide will be forthcoming. Time will tell.

When all is said and done: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” are some wise words that are extremely pertinent. Insist upon the condom!!

Let me add: Until the tide is completely turned, to keep yourself from being washed away, “It is best to be adamant about the use of the ‘raincoat’ when ‘showering’ with one whose sex habits and history are an unknown mystery. HIV/AIDS is a humongous price to pay for an irresistible, uninformed, unintelligent “roll in the hay.”  Insist upon the condom!!

One more thing: Sharing “benefits” with friends whose habits may include the sharing of benefits with others unknown to you is an RSVP to the invitation that says, “Misery is requesting the agony of your presence.” Better look real good before you leap!! July, August, September, etc. . . . . . Insist . . . !!

(Visit this link for some very powerful presentations: Generation Hope « BGTV MEDIA ONLINE)

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