July 2, 2009
Phill Wilson, CEO of the Black AIDS Institute (BAI), last week addressed the annual convention of the National Newspapers Publishers Association where he discussed the reasons blacks "were so slow to grasp the severity of the threat" of HIV, the NNPA/Seattle Medium reports. According to Wilson, many blacks believed that HIV/AIDS was not directly affecting their communities in the early years of the epidemic. In addition, he said when AIDS reached its peak between 1980 and 1982, blacks also were dealing with unemployment, poverty and welfare reform and, as a result, addressing HIV/AIDS was not a priority. Wilson also noted the reluctance by blacks to deal with the stigma related to the virus. Wilson said, however, "I'm more optimistic now around mobilizing black folks around HIV than every before. I think we've made tremendous stride[s] and our institutions across the board are at a different place than they were" (Curry, 7/1).
In related news, a report that BAI recently released found that blacks are more likely than other racial and ethnic groups to have been tested for HIV, but need to be tested at much higher rates to curb the spread of the virus, the NNPA/Westside Gazette reports. The report titled, "Passing the Test: The Challenges and Opportunities of HIV Testing in Black America," also cited four major reasons HIV continues to spread in the black community -- stigma, lack of routine testing in medical exams, written consent requirements and a failure to increase testing rates though effective marketing efforts. The report makes recommendations for improving HIV awareness, treatment and testing in the black community (Curry, 7/1).