President’s Pledge to HIV Research is a Good Start But It’s Not Enough

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    Two years into the second term.  That’s when presidents usually start to seriously consider their legacies and begin taking action.

    President Barack Obama did just that this week when he announced a new, $100 million U.S. initiative to advance research towards a cure for HIV.

    It is a noble effort and it’s a really good start. But while $100 million to you and me sounds like a lot, sadly it’s just a drop in the bucket. The cost for HIV research and prevention is high.

    In just one year, some cities can spend that amount of money, if not more, on prevention. The cost for people of color is this battle is high as well; especially for African-Americans. Here are the facts which I quote directly from The Centers for Disease Control website.  As a matter of fact, it’s the first thing on the CDC’s statistics page.

    • More than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 5 (18.1%) are unaware of their infection.

    • Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, particularly young black/African-American men who have sex with men, are most seriously affected by HIV.

    • By race, blacks/African-Americans face the most severe burden of HIV compared with other races and ethnicities.

    • Blacks represent approximately 12% of the U.S. population, but accounted for an estimated 44% of new HIV infections in 2010. They also accounted for 44% of people living with HIV infection in 2009.

    • Unless the course of the epidemic changes, at some point in their lifetime, an estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with the HIV infection.

    I reeled off all those statics because I don’t want to editorialize or be misinterpreted or misquoted about the dangers of HIV in our community.

    So, very simply, we must accept the fact that we are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS for a host of reasons:

    - lack of knowledge about how the disease is spread.

    - denial and stigma surrounding homosexuality.

    - refusal for abstinence in our teenage years.

    - refusal to have safe sex… use condoms.

    - high rates of intravenous drug use.

    Obviously black people aren’t the only ones who contract HIV and AIDS.  We aren’t the only ones- some of us- who are not getting the message about safe sex.

    But we are among those who are still being infected in disproportionate numbers. And it has to stop.

    We must press our leaders, even the first African-American president, to do more when it comes to allocating resources to AIDS prevention and research for all people, but especially for black people. $100 million here in the U.S. is a great start, but please Mr. President, we need more.

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