Black and HIV Positive in the U.S.

Amie Newman

The grim facts are these: HIV/AIDS is an epidemic of gargantuan proportion among Black people in the United States - rivaling that of African nations. But what is our government doing about it?

CNN covers a jarring report today, released by the Black AIDS Institute, on the skyrocketing numbers of HIV/AIDS rates among Black Americans. It’s hard to imagine that if we were seeing these kinds of numbers among White Americans, we’d still be seeing the same lack of attention to the epidemic.

The report does not talk about racism. It sticks to the grim and almost unimaginable facts:

  • One in every two people living with HIV in the United States is Black
  • AIDS is the leading cause of death among Black women ages 25-34

With facts like these, it should be a no-brainer for the United States to be investing significant funds towards domestic prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. This quote from the CNN coverage puts it in perspective:

According to this report, if black Americans made up their own country,
it would rank above Ethiopia (420,000 to 1,300,000) and below Ivory
Coast (750,000) in HIV population. Both Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast
are among the 15 nations receiving funds from the President’s Emergency
Plan For Aids Relief.

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The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), just recently passed, has been covered extensively on Rewire for its emphasis on ideology, relying in part on abstinence-only programs for prevention, and denying funds to programs that don’t renounce prostitution in countries in Africa. But the reality is that while Senators were volleying to make sure these ideologically bound opinions remained enshrined in the bill, millions of Black Americans have been virtually ignored. In fact, according to Kaiser, domestic funding for HIV/AIDS prevention makes up the smallest part of the HIV/AIDS budget in this country. 

The International AIDS Conference (IAC) will be held in Mexico City next month where advocates from around the world will attend and discuss prevention and treatment strategies. Unfortunately, there will be virtually no high-level governmental representatives from the United States in attendance. Without the leadership from government, it certainly seems like it will be a battle to push for more and more comprehensive funding for HIV/AIDS in this country.

Rewire will begin our coverage of the IAC next week with reports from professional advocates, journalists and bloggers. In the meantime, CNN has coverage here and you can watch Part I of a report from ABC News below:

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