The statistics are staggering-AIDS is fatally impacting the black community.
African Americans account for half of the estimated 1.2 million HIV positive Americans in the United States.
Nearly 70 percent of new adolescent infections are black. And, black women make up 67 percent of new infections. Sixty-three percent of newborns are born with the virus and 40 percent of new male infections are black.
According to statistics, as many as 50 percent of black, gay men are infected, a statistic that is higher than even in Africa.
During National Black AIDS Awareness Day Feb. 7, a press conference was held at KJLH (102.3 FM) radio in Inglewood where the Black AIDS Institute, the nation’s only think tank that focuses exclusively on the black community, unveiled its findings from its 2008 “State of AIDS in Black America” report. Announcing the outcome of the report were Phill Wilson, founder and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network; actor Hill Harper and Dr. Nicole Mc Cann, representing Bishop T. D. Jakes of the Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas.
“Every hour of every day, somewhere in America, an African American is dying from AIDS,” said Wilson. “Somewhere in America, two African Americans is being designated with this disease. Someone’s neighbor, friend, father, mother, sister or brother is dying right now,” said Wilson. “Each of these deaths is tragic. Every infection is preventable and every case is treatable.”
Sharpton pointed out. “Too many of us have been silent. We must find a way to bring this epidemic front and center.”
Wilson, who has lived with the virus for 26 years and is the longest living recorded person with AIDS, unveiled Saving Ourselves: The State of AIDS in Black America…And What We’re Doing About It executive summary.
“In 2006, the 25th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, black leaders reached out to churches, civil rights groups and other organizations across the country to join in the fight against this pandemic which is so gravely affecting our community. In 2007, we saw those groups act and this report details how well they did,” said Wilson.
Wilson said that he is heartened that additional black community leaders have begun to engage in the fight against AIDS. The Black AIDS Institute surveyed 16 organizations that have signed on to a Black AIDS Mobilization effort, a campaign to implement a national plan of action against HIV/AIDS.
The purpose of the Black AIDS Mobilization is to reduce HIV/AIDS rates in black America by 50 percent by increasing the percentage of HIV positive people in black communities who know their HIV status, increasing the percentage of HIV positive blacks to seek out appropriate care and treatment, and to decrease the debilitating HIV stigma in black communities.
According to Wilson, each organization is developing its own individual plan for incorporating HIV/AIDS that will inform a national plan to end AIDS in black America. Within the next five years, Wilson hopes that those organizations will facilitate HIV counseling, disseminate HIV health education materials; host 600 health education events focusing on HIV prevention, education, treatment and care; launch billboard campaigns promoting HIV care in 72 markets, and reach 40 million African-Americans through a multi-media campaign including 30 public service announcements and 30 short TV series focusing on HIV/AIDS in Black America.
Dr. McCann said that Bishop T. D. Jakes has been gravely concerned about the epidemic and launched the “Time to Step Up” AIDS campaign in 2005. “Bishop Jakes has desensitized his parishioners and spoke about HIV and AIDS in the pulpit. He has urged other pastors to launch an effort against AIDS,” said Dr. McCann, who said that the Potter’s House has made HIV/AIDS testing available to its congregation.
“The era of black America turning a blind-eye to the AIDS epidemic is over,” said Wilson.
The Black AIDS Institute is launching a new PSA “Test One Million” campaign to get African Americans tested for the HIV/AIDS virus. For information, call (213) 353-3610, ext. 107.