Is AIDS in Black America about behavior or institutional factors?

| February 23, 2014

Courtesy of the AIDS Task Force

FORT WAYNE—There is no secret that African Americans are the racial/ethnic group hardest impacted by HIV/AIDS. While we account for only 14 percent of the U.S. population, we account for approximately 44 percent of all new HIV infections. When it comes to what we need to do to end this epidemic, we are very much at odds with ourselves.

One crucial issue we are struggling with is who or what is to blame for the AIDS crisis in black communities, what makes us more vulnerable: risky behaviors or instructional oppression? Let’s take a look at what HIV advocates from across the country say is really worsening the epidemic in the black community:

PovertyPoverty fuels the HIV epidemic due to its impact on all aspects of life including income, housing, education, nutrition, and access to health care. In communities where the poverty rates are high there exists a greater gap that fuels the inability to negotiate, feel empowered, get educated, get tested, get involved, and get treatment.

HomophobiaHomophobia is a major factor that is driving HIV rates in black communities. Black LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender) individuals may be told or made to feel that they are less than by some organizations, other individuals or family members.  25 to 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT, and a disproportionate number are black.

Untreated and Undiagnosed STDsUndiagnosed and untreated sexually transmitted disease (STDs) are known to increase the chance of one becoming infected with HIV because they suppress the immune system, making a person more vulnerable to HIV.

Low Health Literacy—Low health literacy is the inability to read and comprehend written materials to function in health care settings and lessens the skills needing to advocate for and request needed clarification.

Lack of Comprehensive Sex EducationOur youth have not received the crucial information that they need to make an informed decision about abstinence or sex or to protect themselves from HIV and STDs.

StigmaThe stigma around HIV has created an enormous amount of shame for people living with HIV/AIDS as well as for their families. The fear of being judged and/or ostracized from their communities has driven people to not get tested, and pretend that HIV is the problem of people from other communities, “Not Me!”

Injection/Drug UseWhen injection drug users share “equipment”—such as needles, syringes and other injection paraphernalia HIV can be transmitted between users.

Drug use by any route (not just injection) can put a person at risk for HIV. Drug and alcohol intoxication affects judgment and can lead to unsafe sexual practices, which puts a person at risk for getting HIV or transmitting it to someone else.

Late/Not TestingLate testing or not testing at all for HIV among Black America is a contributor to the current epidemic, it is strongly recommitted that all people know their HIV status. HIV testing at the AIDS Task Force located at 525 Oxford St. is as easy as walking in, testing is free, confidential, and requires no blood, you get your results in 20 minutes.

For more information on testing, education, or a list of ways you can get involved so that together we can make a difference in our community contact the AIDS Task Force at (260) 744-1144.

Category: Health

About the Author ()

Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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