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Are African Americans Still Concerned With HIV/AIDS In Our Community?

by Lisa Pollard

On July 24th, I participated in the AIDS Walk of Central Ohio. Actually, I volunteer every year as a tribute to my former co-worker and dear friend who lived with AIDS. Nonetheless, every year I become a little more disappointed at the fact that there are so few African Americans that participate in this event, or any HIV/AIDS event for that matter.

We are we? And why don’t we act as if we care anymore?

We did not even represent a 1/4 of the people that walked and showed their support for this deadly, yet manageable virus/disease. This is absolutely heartbreaking considering that we (African Americans) represent the highest percentage of new infections every year.

According to the Ohio Department of Health’s Statistical Summary dated June 30, 2009, as of December 31, 2008 we currently represent 49% of total number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses. That would be 50% HIV(not AIDS) and 38% (AIDS). Is this not a continuous wake-up call? These numbers are comparable to all other racial/ethnic groups that compose the other 51% (including, but not limited to, Whites, Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native & Unknown).

In Ohio alone, African Americans males represent 5,162 total reported (2,682 HIV, not AIDS and 2,480 AIDS) cases. While African American women represent 1,970 total reported (1,104 HIV, not AIDS and 866 AIDS) cases. These numbers are staggering! Yet we sit back silent and idle. Why are we not aggressively addressing this number with fervor? Please don’t tell me that we are still stuck on stigma! Get over it! We are silently, yet rapidly, becoming infected in large numbers.

Everyone knows someone that has been infected and/or living with HIV/AIDS. This has long since, surpassed being the ‘gay, white, male disease’. Therefore, we are not immune.

Not only do we need to stand up to protect ourselves 100% of the time but we need to get ourselves tested regularly. Just because you may have been tested several years ago and your results came back ‘negative’, this does not mean that you may not have since been exposed. The only person that you should completely and totally trust your body to is yourself! While you may be married or in what you think is a monogamous relationship, you are not excluded from potential exposure. Get tested!

The quicker you are aware of your status, the quicker you are able to seek the necessary medical intervention, if positive, to manage this virus/disease. AIDS is only a death sentence if you let it be.

African Americans, it is time to stop being stagnant and watching our community perish before us when all we need to do is stop being ignorant, stagnant and silent!

Who knows, maybe at next year’s AIDS Walk we can have more African Americans that want to shed light on HIV/AIDS and acknowledge it as a continued problem in our community. We need your support and voices. If we don’t get it, we will continue to suffer. And we will lose out in more ways than one, starting with government funding for research, financial assistance for persons who are infected and prevention & eduction in our communities. If you don’t know by now, that money is continuously getting cut because we are not there to vocalize, act and fight for it.

So the question before you is, “Are you concerned with HIV/AIDS in our community?” Does it matter to you that, according to the Center for Disease Control, African Americans represent only 12% of the U.S. population yet we account for 43% of new AIDS case every year. Are you disturbed with the fact that 39% of new AIDS cases are comprised of African American men? Do you care that African American women make up 60% of all new AIDS cases reported among women. Does it matter that 63% of new AIDS infections among children each year are African American (13 years and younger). Do you care anymore? If so, what are you doing to make a difference and impact these numbers in our community?

Written with much peace & love,
Lisa Pollard

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