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Experts Gather in Philadelphia to Discuss AIDS in Black Communities

August 30, 2010

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Updates From Vienna AIDS Conference

A second panel discussed participant impressions of AIDS 2010, including research that has identified a breakthrough microbicide that reduced HIV transmission by 39 percent.

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Helena Kwakwa, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation Care Clinic, discussed reducing the Black community's viral load. Some experts believe that Black America's high rates of HIV-related complications and death can be partially explained by the fact that too many HIV-positive Black Americans are not taking antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, Dr. Kwakwa explained. ARVs lower the amount of virus in HIV-positive individuals' bodies, making them less contagious.

"We need to think of the ways to treat more widely -- not just throwing drugs out there, but really treating effectively to bring down the community viral load," she said.

Robin Stevens, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior research associate at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, discussed her presentation at AIDS 2010 that addressed the impact on Black communities of the lack of AIDS coverage in U.S. newspapers over the last decade. Dr. Stevens said that AIDS coverage dropped as the disease's prevalence decreased among White Americans but rose among Blacks.

"Because our country's epidemic is not among the right group of people, it is no longer a news agenda item, and it hasn't been for the last 10 years," said Dr. Stevens. She reported that U.S. news coverage of AIDS tends to focus on Africa, and when the issue is highlighted in Black Americans, it is not placed in context.

These discussions have come as Philadelphia faces growing rates of HIV infection. According to BEBASHI executive director Gary Bell, the city's HIV rates are five times the national average, which means it ranks sixth in the nation. Bell said that 70 percent of the new infections are occurring in African Americans.

In addition to BEBASHI, the Magic Johnson Foundation, the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, the Black AIDS Institute and local organizations helped support the event.

Ayana Jones is a Philadelphia-based health and business reporter.

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This article was provided by Black AIDS Institute. It is a part of the publication Black AIDS Weekly. Visit Black AIDS Institute's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
 
See Also
TheBody.com's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
HIV and Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
More HIV Policy Issues Affecting the African-American Community

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