Monday, November 29, 2010

Not. OK.

I usually try and keep things light here on Chakabox, even when talking about serious topics.  The world can get really depressing sometimes, and just spewing a bunch of morbid and scary statistics about scary and morbid things doesn't make for particularly engaging reading.  This's morbid, and it's scary, but I can't just leave it be, and can't really make it amusing, because there is nothing funny about it.

like, disgustingly not OK

Despite being a relatively small proportion of the overall population (about 12%), Black Americans comprise 49% of all the people living with HIV in the United States.  Did you catch that?  That said half of all HIV infections in the US are found within twelve percent of the population.

I know, right?

It gets even bleaker for Black women, who have an HIV infection rate that is fifteen times higher than that of White women.  That leads to the most disturbing statistic of all, to my mind:  AIDS is the leading cause of death in Black women ages 25-34.  These are not Ugandan women or South African women - these are AMERICAN women, in the richest, most medically advanced country in the world.


It was thought for a long time, by me included, that the main reason Black women are at increased risk of HIV was because of "Down Low" or "DL" culture.  Black men are said to be 'on the DL' when they identify as heterosexual, but have sex (generally thought to be unprotected anal sex) with other men in secret.  The men are then infected via this high risk activity, and bring the virus back to their wives and girlfriends unwittingly.  Turns out everyone was WRONG.  The vast majority of new HIV cases in Black women come from men who have never had sex with another man.

Try again, science, but try to keep your institutionalized homophobia out of it next time

Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, says that his team "looked to see what proportion of infections is coming from male partners who are bisexual and found there are actually relatively few. More are male partners who are having female partners and are injecting drugs or using drugs or have some other risks that may put those female partners at risk of acquiring HIV.” 

wait, you mean AIDS isn't only a gay disease?

Fenton went on to say that "what we are seeing is a concentration of the epidemic among the poor, among ethnic minorities and racial minorities in the United States.  We’re seeing populations which have been historically and traditionally hard to reach and more difficult to serve.  The truth is, the reason Black Americans are more at risk for HIV is the same reason Black Americans are more at risk for pretty much all health problems - there is an absolutely appalling health disparity in the United States.

For example.  Read it and actually weep.

There is no denying that these disparities exist, but just knowing that institutionalized racism is literally shortening the lives of Black Americans is not going to solve the problem.  The question now is what the hell are we going to do about it?  I couldn't even begin to scratch the surface on the topic here, but if you're interested in learning more, here's a host of books that'll get you started.

an excellent place to start changing the world

For his part, Dr. Fenton and his crew have teamed up with 14 national Black organizations already known and respected within Black communities, and are providing grants to allow each of them to hire a dedicated HIV/AIDS outreach coordinator.  They are also utilizing Black media, as well as urging Black leaders to spread awareness and education.

Nicely done, Dr. F!

“All of us have a role to play in ending this epidemic," Fenton has said, "whether in reducing risk behavior, talking about HIV to family and friends and those who we love, getting HIV tested, knowing our HIV status and encouraging others to know their status, mobilizing our political leaders and our faith leaders around this epidemic and tackling stigma and discrimination and the silence which continues to kill so many members of our community every day.”

Couldn't have hoped to say it better myself.  So get out there and start talking about this, folks.  Because this simply will not stand.

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