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U.S. News

Disease Denial Devastating for African Americans; Blacks Are Most Vulnerable

June 5, 2006

Although HIV/AIDS was branded a gay white man's disease when it first was diagnosed 25 years ago, black people were from the beginning of the epidemic disproportionately likely to test positive for HIV. African-American men, women and children now account for 51 percent of new HIV diagnoses -- an increase from 25 percent in 1985 -- and account for 55 percent of national AIDS deaths, although they comprise 13 percent of the population.

High rates of poverty, STDs and a lack of access to medical, treatment and prevention information contribute to the black community's high HIV prevalence. However, activists, researchers and HIV/AIDS patients say a bigger factor has been the reluctance of African Americans to address the disease at all. African Americans are the only group experiencing a continuous rise in HIV infections, even though there is little difference from the rest of the population in how they contract it.

Because the virus is associated with homosexuality, which is stigmatized in the black community, people have been reluctant to speak out. Before she died this spring, Coretta Scott King -- the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow -- condemned homophobia as a barrier to AIDS prevention.

For the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the epidemic, several "Call to Action" events are planned locally and nationally to raise HIV/AIDS awareness in the black community.

Representatives from the Urban League, NAACP and Black Entertainment Television, and celebrities plan to gather in New York today to "sound an alarm" about the epidemic. Leaders including NAACP President Bruce Gordon, Urban League President Mark Morial, BET Vice President Kelli Richardson Lawson, actor Danny Glover and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), plan to announce an alliance committed to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"In 2006, AIDS is a black disease," said Lisha Wilson, medical director of the Magic Johnson AIDS clinic in Oakland, Calif. "Black people bear the burden, and people are now going to realize that the only way to stop it in America is to stop it in black America."

Back to other news for June 5, 2006

Adapted from:
San Francisco Chronicle
06.05.06; Leslie Fulbright

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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