As of December 2003, about 1.1 million people living in the United States were HIV-positive -- the highest number ever recorded in the country, CDC officials said last week at the 2005 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta. Blacks made up about 47% of the total HIV-positive population and more than half of new HIV cases, despite making up only 12% of the population, agency officials said. Black women are 19 times as likely to be infected with HIV as white women, and 32% of black men ages 23 to 29 who have sex with men are HIV-positive, compared with 14% of Latino MSM and 7% of white MSM of the same age, according to a CDC study conducted four years ago. In addition, an estimated 25% of HIV-positive individuals are unaware of their HIV status and MSM accounted for about 45% of all cases at the end of 2003, according to CDC (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/14). Several newspapers recently have published opinion pieces about the HIV/AIDS epidemic among U.S. blacks. Some of these are summarized below.
Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Despite CDC's HIV/AIDS figures, "there has been little activity that would suggest a crisis, especially among those activists who can usually be counted on to draw attention to the suffering of black Americans," Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Tucker writes in an opinion piece. "Where are the rallies and town hall meetings, the urgent press conferences, the demands for more money for research and prevention?" Tucker asks. Leading black advocates might have "little to say" about the epidemic because they would have to "aim their criticism within, not just at the irresponsible sexual behavior that spreads HIV but also at the demoralizing prejudice against gays that shares the blame," Tucker writes (Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/19).
Andrew Sullivan, London's Times: Poor black men and women are the "new ground zero" in the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic, Times columnist Sullivan writes in an opinion piece. "Black Americans have yet to tackle the deep cultural resistance to acknowledging that this disease is now theirs as much as anyone's and to summon communal responses to increase testing and treatment," Sullivan writes, adding, "The black churches -- without which no big change in attitudes will occur -- have been criminally negligent in this regard" (Sullivan, Times, 6/19).
Deborah Simmons, Washington Times: The U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic has shifted to include more women, blacks and Latinos, but programs such as needle exchanges, condom promotion and comprehensive sex education in schools are part of efforts to enact policies allowing MSM "to hide 'sexual preferences' and practices in the name of privacy and civil rights," Deborah Simmons, Times deputy editorial page editor, writes in an opinion piece. U.S. voters "need to wake up to the stark realization of the discolorations and distortions that are pushing public policies and tax dollars into the darker corners of immortality," Simmons writes, concluding, "The real face of the crisis has been unmasked. Its name is Behavior" (Simmons, Washington Times, 6/17).
For more opinions on the recent U.S. HIV statistics, click here.
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2004 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.