Guest Author - Barbara Sharpe
Recently, two interesting articles regarding HIV have come to my inbox.
Phil Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) speaks freely about HIV being a “black disease” despite criticism from other blacks and from whites. Recent statistics show that more than 50% of new infections are in African Americans. Given that African Americans are about 13% of the population, that’s an astounding infection rate.
Still, "Every time I say, 'AIDS is a black disease,' it irks everyone," said Wilson, president. "Whites call me racist, and blacks say, 'You have stigmatized us. We're not the only people with AIDS.'"
Wilson continued, "What's more disturbing is there are so many people who are more concerned about what other people think of us than whether we survive or not."
BAI released a report, “Left Behind” that discusses the health disparity by portraying black America as a separate nation. If that were the case, it would rank 105th for life expentancy and 88th-worst for infant mortality. The poverty rate is triple that of US whites and it’s jobless rate is worse than the Philippines and Russia.
At about the same time, we learned that the CDC has been dramatically underestimating the rate of HIV infections in this country – as much as 40% more people have HIV that expected. It isn’t, says the CDC, that the rates have actually increased but that more sophisticated testing is now available.
From the CDC website:
“It is important to note that the new estimates do not show an increase in new HIV infections. The new estimates are from the first national surveillance system of its kind in the world that is based on direct measurement of new HIV infections using technology that can distinguish recent from long-standing, population-based infections. Using the new surveillance system, CDC estimates that 56,300 new HIV infections occurred in the United States in 2006. CDC previously estimated that approximately 40,000 new HIV infections occurred annually since the 1990s. The 2006 incidence estimate is about 40% higher than the previous estimates. The new system reveals that the epidemic is—and has been—worse than previously estimated and underscores the need to expand HIV prevention to reach those at greatest risk.”
It is clear that abstinence-only sex education is not working. Despite a national study showing the abstinence-only education has no appreciable effect on teen sexual behavior, the current administration has no intention of changing its strategy. Let’s hope that our new president, whomever he is, rethinks the policy on sexuality education.