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HIV Aids: The fight has just begun

 

If you're avoiding the HIV/AIDS issue because you're too scared to take the test, calm your fears by getting the facts and knowing your risk factors.

 

The truth: Black people can't afford to sleep on this issue. So, please make a plan to get tested and follow through on it today.

 

There was a time, not too long ago, when just the mention of the words HIV and AIDS caused fear and even hysteria in some people. This modern-day plague was something to be afraid of.

 

Many people died in a matter of weeks or months after receiving the diagnosis. Movies were made about the scourge. Magazines and newspapers regularly profiled women, men and children of all races and socio-economic statuses felled to the disease.

 

Oprah did shows about its consequences. Radio and television stations bombarded the public with public service announcements encouraging safe sex.

 

But now the urgency surrounding the disease appears to have almost disappeared. What happened?

 

Sure, we're still walking for a cure, buying condoms and praying for the end of this pandemic. However, our attention is mostly elsewhere. For example, activism on the issue has declined, so we seldom see protestors in the streets demanding more government funding for AIDS research.

 

Is it because people are living longer with the disease? Is it a result of AIDS education programs that are so widespread ? Do people think a cure is just around the corner so there's no need to worry? Or, is it just that folks got tired of living in fear?

 

All of these reasons play a role in our changing attitudes.

 

But this is not the time to get comfortable with the virus. After all, there's still no cure. HIV and AIDS are still ravaging populations throughout the world.

 

According to one study released at an international Aids conference, there'll be a decline in life expectancy in 51 countries in the next two decades as a result of AIDS.

 

This is without precedent in modern times. This will affect the economic and social development in these countries for years to come.

 

The global Black community cannot afford to be lackadaisical about this, especially since this disease disproportionately affects us. 

 

 

Black women comprise nearly two-thirds of all women who are HIV positive, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. And more than half of the 40,000 new HIV infections diagnosed each year in America are in African Americans, though we make up just 12 percent of the population.

 

Twenty-seven percent of all new HIV infections in the United States were acquired through heterosexual contact from 1994 through 2000. HIV diagnoses among heterosexuals grew by 10 percent in the last two years of that period. Of that percentage, the biggest growth has been among Black women, who accounted for more than half of all cases of HIV infection acquired heterosexually.

 

In the United Kingdom, where Blacks make up less than 5 per cent of the total population, the infection rates is 20 times that of the white community. The epidemic is more acute within the Black African communities in the UK, which account for the majority of all new heterosexual HIV infections.

Blacks in
Africa fair even worse. The average life expectancy in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa is under 40 years. In Botswana, the hottest spot for AIDS, the life expectancy is now 39 years, instead of the 72 it would have been before the emergence of AIDS.

 

Nkosi Johnson, the brave South African HIV Aids campaigner,who died aged 12 symbolised HIV AIDS epidemic within the global Black community

 

More mind-boggling research funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development reveals that in countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia more infants will die from HIV infection in 2010 than from all other causes.

 

There's no question that the effects of HIV and AIDS in our community and in the global village will be felt for generations. It's critical that everyone plays a role in helping to stop the transmission of the virus, increasing education efforts about the causes and effects of the disease and advocating for a cure that'll be accessible regardless of economic status.

 

So, should you still be worried about HIV and AIDS?

 

Yes. Should you be paralyzed into inaction and feelings of complacency? No. What can you do today, right now? A lot.

 

Get educated about the virus, the disease and the dire statistics of our community and of the world. Be unwavering about practicing safe sex. Stay involved in the political process because research dollars and funding are at stake.

 

And, most importantly, spread your knowledge to those you love and the friends you care about (and, if the inspiration hits you, whomever you feel will benefit from the information).

 

DeNita S.B Morris is with Black Women's Health Imperative, a leading African American health education, research, advocacy and leadership development charity.

 

With thanks to Black Women's Health Imperative, please see a medical expert if you or those around you are concerned about HIV AIDS. Your doctor and local Black organisations can provide discreet support and guidance.

 

Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

 

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