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Black AIDS

A new study titled "Back of the Line: The State of AIDS Among Black Gay Men in America" reveals some shocking truths about HIV/AIDS infections in the African American community. One in four black gay American men will contact AIDS, despite accounting for only one in 500 of the American population.

The study, released by the Black AIDS Institute ahead of the International AIDS Society conference, to be held in Washington, DC, next week, is an easy and eye-opening read. An entire minority of people are battling a disease, often without help from their families, communities or government. 

This is what Ernest Hopkins, chair of the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition and contributor to the report, had to say about the dire statistics: 

This report focuses on one group of Americans for whom the promise of genuine equality remains unfulfilled. Today, Black gay and bisexual men are more heavily affected by HIV than any other group in the entire developed world. Indeed, it is difficult to find another population across the globe that has suffered more as a result of this epidemic than Black gay men.

Accounting for one in 500 Americans, Black gay and bisexual men represent nearly one in four new infections. Worse still, rates of new infections among Black gay men are rapidly increasing.

This report explains these shocking patterns. While Black men are at the front of the line when it comes to need, they remain at the back of the line when it comes to services. Black gay men are more likely than other gay men to have undiagnosed HIV infection, less likely to have access to life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services, and more likely to be deterred from seeking help due to the combined effects of poverty, racism, and homophobia.

The AIDS crisis among Black gay men is a problem for Black America as a whole. If this is our problem, we need to be part of the solution. We must find it within ourselves to summon the courage to confront our own prejudices; to welcome our Black gay sons and brothers into our families, communities, and churches; and to renew our commitment to the fight against AIDS, vowing to prioritize this struggle until this scourge is eradicated for good.

This report needs to be read, and its recommendations heeded. With infections rapidly rising, time is of the essence. We urge all those who ought to care about this crisis—including those who are engaged in the fight, as well as those who remain on the sidelines—to incorporate the lessons in this important report and to take action. All of us have a role to play.

I know too many people, black, white and otherwise, who don’t view HIV/AIDS as cause for concern. They come from a generation that didn’t live through the fear and destruction of AIDS in the late 20th century. They didn’t experience the loss the same way older members of our community have. Many view the disease as manageable, and thanks to modern medicine, they don’t consider it life threatening. Many more simply don’t care. But apathy is delusion, and all too often, death. Although it is possible to live a happy and fulfilling life being HIV-positive, it is essential that you ask questions, take precautions and use protection for the sake of yourself and your partner.

I don’t want to preach, and I know it’s cliché, but it’s also true — knowing your status is the cure.

If you want to get tested, HiM gives free HIV and STD tests at their clinic at 1033 Davie St. If you have no one to go with you and can’t do it alone, shoot me an email. I don’t mind holding your hand! I need to stock up on lube anyway . . . 

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