Black Leaders Call for More HIV Testing
August 15, 2006
On Monday at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, about a dozen African-American business, civic and religious leaders pledged to fight the epidemic's disproportionate impact on their community.
African Americans are overrepresented among those newly infected, and AIDS is the leading cause of death among U.S. black women ages 25-44. African-American youths are just 17 percent of all teens, but represented 70 percent of teen HIV infections in 2004.
The pledge calls for increased testing so every African American can know his or her HIV status, reducing HIV rates among African Americans over the next five years, and increasing access to care and treatment. The effort was organized by the Black AIDS Institute (BAI).
"Now is the time for us to face the fact that AIDS has become a black disease," Julian Bond, chairperson of the NAACP, said at the conference. "It has invaded our house, and our leaders must accept ownership and fight it with everything we have." "Knowing your HIV status and the status of your partner can save your life," said Bond, who recently took an HIV test as part of the campaign.
Phill Wilson, BAI's executive director, said he was troubled by a recent study of gay men in U.S. cities showing 46 percent of black men who have sex with men were HIV-positive; among those infected, 67 percent did not know it. "Black folks find out they are HIV-positive 18 months before an AIDS diagnosis," he said. "That means we are testing late."
The pledge was also endorsed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who said she would sponsor a bill to improve prison HIV services, including testing, counseling and comprehensive sex education; Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who said she would go further, proposing to require mandatory HIV testing of prisoners in order to stem AIDS in the community; and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who said fighting AIDS is a major civil rights issue.
San Francisco Chronicle
08.15.06; Sabin Russell
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.