August 9th, 2008
11:10 AM ET

AIDS: The Cavalry is not coming to save us

Program Note: In CNN’s Black in America, Soledad O’Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/28/art.seele.jpg]
Editor's Note:
This morning the Black AIDS Institute released a report entitled “Left Behind! Black America: A Neglected Priority in the Global AIDS Epidemic” The report praises U.S. efforts to address HIV worldwide, but criticizes what it terms a weaker response to the epidemic at home.

According to the report:

  • There are more black Americans living with HIV than the total HIV populations in seven of the 15 countries receiving PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).
  • In areas such as Detroit, Washington D.C. and the Deep South, HIV rates among segments of the black community approach those of countries in Africa.
  • If black America were its own country, it would rank 16th in people living with HIV; 105th in life expectancy and 88th in infant mortality worldwide.
  • The U.S. response to its domestic epidemic is so weak that the country would fail to qualify for its own emergency AIDS relief program.

Pernessa Seele, who founded the group Balm in Gilead to disseminate accurate information about AIDS to black churches across the U.S, shares with us her view:

Pernessa Seele
Founder/CEO, The Balm In Gilead

I lift my hat off to CNN for its series on Black In America. Having grown up in the segregated South (Lincolnville, S.C.) and now at the age of 53 living in Richmond, Virginia, I can certainly speak of some of the changes and some of the “same ole thing” that black people encounter daily in these great United States. Health care is one of those areas that I must point to as the “same ole thing”, particularly the U.S. response to HIV/AIDS among African-Americans.

The response to AIDS in Black America has been awful. The average American (black and white) can only relate to the devastating AIDS epidemic in Africa, with no clue of the horrendous suffering Black Americans are enduring right here at home. America’s response to AIDS in Africa has been billions of dollars more than its response to its black citizens at home.

As Founder/CEO of The Balm In Gilead, a non- profit organization building the capacity of faith communities to address life threatening diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, I am privileged to work in both Africa and African-American communities and witness not only the similarities of suffering but also the very unequal response and caring.

The world has been very consumed with the devastation of AIDS in Africa. Great! However, there should be a worldwide out-cry that 1 in 20 persons living in Washington, DC, our nation’s capital, is living with the AIDS virus. Over 80% of these persons living with HIV in Washington, DC, are Black Americans.

The HIV prevalence rate in Washington, DC, (5%) is fast approaching the levels of infection in Uganda (5.4%). I don’t have time to go through the list of state after state that reflect the disproportionate rate of AIDS among blacks, such as Georgia where 70% of persons living with HIV in the state are Black Americans.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was just passed by Congress last week, will once again deliver billions of dollars to 15 nations to address HIV prevention and treatment. Once again, GREAT!

Sadly, the rate of HIV/AIDS in Black America ranks higher than seven of those foreign countries that will receive those PEPFAR dollars in the coming months. The seven countries that have less of an HIV positive population than Black America are: Guyana, Rwanda, Haiti, Namibia, Vietnam, Botswana, and Ethiopia. Listen! There is no outcry to the suffering of Black America!

The African-American faith community is beginning to understand its essential role in addressing HIV/AIDS in Black America. As in the days of my yester years, our churches were those points of light that offered education, compassion and service to America’s darker citizens when our government’s adequate response to our needs and concerns were essentially missing.

Today, as many black churches throughout the U.S. are coming to the forefront as model programs of providing comprehensive HIV/AIDS education, testing, housing and other compassionate services, far too many continue to be silent. The vast majority of Black Americans are touched and reached weekly by the tentacles of an African-American church. Furthermore, the second largest employer of black people in America remains the African-American church.

For 19 years, The Balm In Gilead has been providing training and capacity development to our faith leaders and laity in helping churches to become sustainable community health promotion and disease prevention institutions, while engulfed in the ever-flowing stream of the Holy Spirit. At this critical moment in Black America and in public health history regarding HIV/AIDS, I invite all church leaders and members to re-dedicate themselves to the role of “leader” and seek God’s guidance in dismantling AIDS stigma and providing an adequate, effective response to HIV/AIDS in their respective communities.

When I was a child in Lincolnville, S.C., with various illnesses, my mom and I sat in “colored only” hospital waiting rooms and had to enter the doctors’ offices through the back door in order to be seen. It did not matter what time we arrived – always early in the morning – or the nature of our medical distress, we would not be seen by the doctor or the medical staff at the hospital until every white person had been served that day.

Waiting was the life of black folks when I was a child, particularly in areas of health and medicine. Today, Black Americans are still waiting for adequate health care and an appropriate response to its suffering regarding HIV/AIDS. However, the waiting is much longer! The world is in front of us!! It appears that the U.S. Cavalry is not coming to save us.

We must depend on ourselves! Every Black church in America is needed and required!

Filed under: Black in America • Pernessa Seele
soundoff (159 Responses)
  1. Paul

    So sickening...whoa is me for the black population with all their problems....AIDS is acquired mostly thru means which can be prevented. Nobody is "giving" AIDS to anybody....start taking responsibility instead of blaming other races

    July 29, 2008 at 2:47 pm |
  2. Dave E

    You know I've been to college and I had the sex talk and since that point I've dated several girls. Two of these women offered to have unprotected sex with me because we didn't have a condom. I said no.
    I had a blood test last month no AIDS.

    The sad fact is that AIDS is what you get for being stupid black or white.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:46 pm |
  3. LT in Texas

    This is irresponsible, faulty research, yellow journalism and just plain stupid for CNN to print such propaganda. Anyone can manipulate statistics to read any way they want, I know, I taken several statistical classes. I would like to know from Phil Wilson how you calculated this nonsense. Did you test every black person in America to make that statement? My boyfriend is black and so am I, according to you which one of us has HIV or AIDS? I work in an office with at least ten black males and females which of those have HIV or AIDS. is this about seeking money for your institution? Personally from me Mr. Phil Wilson you should be shut down and ran out of town, you are not helpful or respectful to the black community.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  4. Darian

    Okay now, some of you all really need to get a grip. This is not about rap/hip-hop music or "thug" culture and it's glorification of sex. This can be seen EVERYWHERE in American. This is in the movies, television, and even commercials. Sex sells and that's the American way. I believe that the over presence of sex in America spawns symptoms such as AIDS, child pornography, sex- abuse, etc... I believe that there are many facets contributing to this epidemic. But, the most imporatant issue here is education. People need to be educated on SEX, period. We should not only be preaching SAFE sex, but also ABSTINENCE, as it's the only 100% way to not contact any STD. This is not a gay issue or a hetorosexual issue, it's a sex issue, and anybody who does it is at risk. Ladies, and Gentlemen, we can all do better. Start making responsible choices and let's start getting our lusts for one another under control. A lifetime of pain just isn't worth it.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
  5. Sasha

    Those who say that down low brothers are not too blame, are wrong!
    In 2005, MSM ( Men who have sex with men ) still accounted for about 53% of all new HIV/AIDS cases and 71% of cases in male adults and adolescents.

    Yes, protection and prevention is definitely the major issue. But deception by MSM's cause heterosexual women to falsely believe that they are in monogamous relationships when they are not. Down low brothers who are not open and honest about their sexuality are to blame for a great portion of new HIV/AIDs cases among African American women.

    According to the CDC website today:

    AIDS has been diagnosed for more than half a million MSM. Over 300,000 MSM with AIDS have died since the beginning of the epidemic.

    MSM made up more than two thirds (68%) of all men living with HIV in 2005, even though only about 5% to 7% of men in the United States reported having sex with other men.

    In a 2005 study of 5 large US cities, 46% of African American MSM were HIV-positive.

    Got to the CDC website and see for yourself. Do your research before posting people!

    July 29, 2008 at 2:38 pm |
  6. From AZ

    Comes down to personal responsibility . Govt. is not the answer to this problem. The blame game doesn't help either. I just can't understand that after nearly 3 decades, people are still saying that we need more education. The disease is out there, it is caused by having unprotected sex, sharing needles with drug users that may have the virus and blood transfusions. 2 of the 3 examples can be prevented. What more education does one need?

    July 29, 2008 at 2:38 pm |
  7. Julie

    Epidemics are horrific. Ignoring the cause of epidemics is unconscionable. Lets try another view: We are all trying to get along. To that end may I suggest that you drop the 'race card' and look at the facts? I think we have all had quite enough of this apparent sell that being 'Black in America' is the worst possible situation in which to find yourself. What about RED in America, YELLOW or anything 'Other' in America? We all have our stories: Everyone is suffering from some past event. Apparently the Black demographic have the best PR people at the moment.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:37 pm |
  8. Norm

    As far as I am concerned, Duane is the only truly credible poster on this subject (including me). I agree with George B - hang in there, Duane.

    We in the US all know how AIDS is transmitted, so what's the point in rehashing that? Problem is, a lot of people in poorest Africa probably DON'T know, and that is why we send money over there - for education and prevention. Here, if you're presumed to know how to prevent something, the burden falls on you to prevent it, not to cry foul after you have let it happen. We operate under a premise that you should be educated enough to be able to help yourself. That may be harsh at times, but it's who we are, and I believe it's healthy.

    That said, AIDS is going to strike - even those people who who are acting responsibly and are simply victims of really bad luck. But that has nothing to do with black and white, and color really has no place in this debate. If someone is angry that the US gives Africa more AIDS money than it gives to its own citizens, fair enough - but they should at least acknowledge that it's ALL American AIDS sufferers who are being treated unfairly, not just black ones. That's where this whole article falls down for me.

    Unless, of course, the insinuation is that the reason we give more to Africa than we give to ourselves is precisely BECAUSE proportionally more blacks than whites have AIDS...in which case, you're just shouting "RACISM!" because it's easy to do. That is just baseless blame-mongering with no specific foundation.

    And finally, if you're going to insist on bringing race into this discussion at all, I would ask...what color are most Africans again?

    July 29, 2008 at 2:36 pm |
  9. Denice

    Please people, understand this, HIV/AIDS can happen to anyone. Persons that have been tested positve for HIV do not necessarily come form having multiple sex partners or IV drug use. I have lost two members of my immediate family, my Mother, my brother, and my step father, yeah that's three. They did not belong in your "typical" classification of persons infested with HIV. So if you do not know what you are talking about you need to keep quite, stop being hostile, and instead show some compassion and love.
    I am writing this because I am tried of keeping the silence, the silence is what has allowed the epidemic to run wild with Black people in America.
    When this disease first came out it was a gay man disease. But guess what, the gay community got out organized, educated, and informed people that having unprotected sex can lead to contracting HIV. They put condoms in every hotel, every bar, not locked up in the health clinic and drug stores, everwhere until, now we don't hear about HIV in the homosexual community.
    We need to organize and do the same thing for our people, if we are serious about stopping the spread.
    I can go on and on but I have work to do.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:35 pm |
  10. Wally

    As Granddaddy would say, "We're just cleaning up the gene pool." Before I married, my wife had me get an HIV test to make sure I was safe to breed with–now that's a smart lady. Simple Biblical obedience can relieve some, if not most, of this problem. As far as why blacks get it more than whites; well, let's not blame that on slavery. Always remember, if it weren't for slavery, most blacks would still be in Africa where Aids, poverty, and education would be of a more "grave" issue.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:35 pm |
  11. Eric

    Jessie said: "But Kevin needs to understand also that there are necessary precautions to prevent Melanoma as well. Practicing not lying out stretched out for hours on tanning beds, wearing clothing that protects one from the harmful rays of the sun, to not directly bake in the Sun without utilizing or exercising care to prevent this horrible skin disease."

    I think you missed the point Kevin was trying to make. He was basically comparing the AIDS in the black community issue with melanoma primarily affecting whites and that it was totally preventable if those folks would take precautions. And he was countering the argument that some ignorant fools are trying to make that AIDS is a big problem in the black community only because of the government's indifference, by pointing out that one could make the same stupid argument that the government must not care about skin cancer in the white population...

    July 29, 2008 at 2:34 pm |
  12. justaseer

    In years to come, we will look back and see these unbalanced statistics represent another Tuskegee Experiment type of event.

    This time it is the testing of Genetically Specific Virus Research. The target group is the one least likely to suspect the medical professionals capable of such a level of wickness.

    The Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, began the study in 1932. Nearly 400 poor black men with syphilis from Macon County, Ala., were enrolled in the study. They were never told they had syphilis, nor were they ever treated for it. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the men were told they were being treated for "bad blood," a local term used to describe several illnesses, including syphilis, anemia and fatigue.

    President Clinton apologized in 1997 to Charlie Pollard, and the other Tuskegee survivors.

    If you ask most Africans why there is so much AIDS on the continent, many will say that AIDS was brought there.


    Population control for the purpose of maximizing global resources perhaps.
    Isolating a Virus Resistant Genome within the target group perhaps.
    Darwinian elemination of a percieved weaker species by a more dominant one perhaps?
    Hate perhaps

    July 29, 2008 at 2:31 pm |
  13. Tony

    1 in 8 Americans are black so that means 38 million blacks in America. 500K have AIDS. Thats equal to 1.3% of the black population. Using that calculation, it doesnt seem as bad as Africa. And shame on CNN for trying to compare blacks in the US to Africans. Africans have it much, much worse. They have no timberlands, no pants to sag, no bling, no cars. Black Americans – you need to realize just how good you have it and how much worse it is from where you came from!

    July 29, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  14. LAT

    What are the source or sources of the statistics quoted? Black Aids Institute? OK. How did they arrive at these conclusions and numbers?

    Is this report available online?

    July 29, 2008 at 2:22 pm |
  15. Andy

    To Patricia in SC, I have an idea for you to try... If a man refuses to wear a condom, don't have sex with him.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:22 pm |
  16. Kevin in Dallas

    I did read that study, but it still doesn't account for the disproportionate rate of HIV among the black community in the United States. The study found that the lack of an antigen made you 40% more likely to contract HIV. It also determined that roughly 40% of black men in america don't have this antigen.
    Nearly half of the people infected with HIV in this country are black. 13% of the population is black. Now, for the sake of arguement, lets assume that instead of 40% of black americans lacking this antigen, that 100% lack this antigen. So the black population would be 40% more likely to contract aids, so the racial breakdown of people who have aids should reflect that. So 13% times 140% = 18.2%
    If genetics was the sole factor for the aids epidemic among black people, then black people would account for 18.2% of the population that has contracted aids. But like we said, nearly 50% of the population that has contracted aids is black. Where's that other 30%come from?
    For genetics to explain it, 100% of the black community would have to be 380% more likely to contract aids. But 40% of the black community is 40% more likely...quite the difference.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:20 pm |
  17. Trevor

    It seems like there is a consensus with the readers on the primary reason HIV and AIDS are so prevalent in the black community. THE HAMMER IS DROPPING and its falling right on a FAILING CULTURE driven by black leaders that have failed their population. If America's black community wants to change the perception of what most of the world has towards them, they should start by excepting its their fault and not anyone else's. I'm tired of excuses and poor attempts at blame shifting. MLK would have been the first to point this out.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:19 pm |
  18. Alexis

    @ John and everybody else who keeps linking Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton please STOP!!!!!!!! They are TWO different people and Rev Al has talked about fathers being absent because he to grew up without a father so please talk with you know. Rev Al has also discussed AIDS/HIV many times on his radio show so again stick to what you know about. I pray we educate or children. I live in Atlanta and the down low brothas are alive in well. In the end its up to women to protect themselves and get tested reg. with their partners.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:15 pm |
  19. Will

    "At this critical moment in Black America and in public health history regarding HIV/AIDS, I invite all church leaders and members to re-dedicate themselves to the role of “leader” and seek God’s guidance..."

    Okay, first I apologize in advance for cutting this quote off short as it does change your intended meaning when I leave off the end, but this section of it I think says it all. In other countries 90% of the problem is a lack of education, in the US every third grader knows what AIDS/HIV is, how you contract it, and how to avoid getting it. Our issue isn't one that throwing money at will have any effect on, but if our kids have good role models in their parents and an active church life it will have more effect on the problem than all the money in the world.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:15 pm |
  20. Mea Michelle

    Sometimes I just have to scratch my head. Who amongst us in America does not know how to prevent contracting HIV? It is PAST TIME to STOP LOOKING for people to help you out of your mess, BLACK FOLK! Whatever happened to accountability? I am so tired of reading about black people leading the nation in all of the bad statistics. Are we as a people ever going to rise above?

    Please let's stay demanding more of ourselves and our children. You know how to prevent the spread of HIV - and you do not need help from the government to do it.

    And stop blaming others for your being ashamed of having contracted HIV. Maybe the same is coming from someplace within. I

    July 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm |
  21. Eather Henry

    The problem with AIDS is that in the beginning. it was labelled a Gay disease. Then the Gay Community took control of the disease and made it a political issue. They lobbied for all these laws that provide secrecy for the victims because of the stigma attatched to it. Then the African American Churches, who abhor homosexuality, stigmatized it further by refusing funerals and declaring Gay members as outcasts. Because of the privacy issue you cannot test for the disease unless the patient agrees people are afraid to get treated or tested brcause of the stigma. We have to conbat ignorance fear and forget the conspiracy theories. An AIDS test which is painless should a part of everyone's healthcare profile. When the Doctor draws blood to test for high cholesterol, diabetes and kidney disease, let her test for AIds at the same time.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:11 pm |
  22. Jim

    I prefer a lecture on responsibility over a treatise on the embracement of the "I am a victim" mind set. We are all victims. We are the United States of Victimization. We would all be free if it not be for that person or group that insist upon victimizing us. Viva la Victim!

    July 29, 2008 at 2:06 pm |
  23. Chris

    I suppose this is the white man's fault as well.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:06 pm |
  24. Joe in Dallas

    We need big govenment to get involved. Not because it will help solve the problem but it will make naive elites feel good.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:02 pm |
  25. RJ

    While the crisis is real, it is not necessarily a racial crisis. There is no reason to believe that any there is any genetic link to AIDS. HIV/AIDS is not so much a black disease as it is a moral disease.

    Now that the transmission of HIV viruses via blood transfusions has been minimized, HIV/AIDS is transmitted primarily by dirty needles of drug users and by promiscuous sex. If we were to return to stable monogamous relationships, we could cut HiV/AIDS by more than 80% because monogamous couples do not pass the disease on to other sex partners. Safe sex, to the extent it is practiced, will also help.

    Yes, a government program would be nice, but the primary responsibility for fighting HIV/AIDS is ours.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:00 pm |
  26. Doug

    Gee, 1 in 2 black Americans? How about white Americans? Or Hispanic Americans?

    July 29, 2008 at 2:00 pm |
  27. SB, Washington DC

    I think there is a feeling here in the US that education is all around you. We have libraries that are free, newspapers that are free, free tv. You don't have to go to the best schools – just pick up a newspaper or turn on the nightly news. The article would have been much more insightful if Ms. Seele would've presented some stats around how much gov't funding goes to education initiatives and community awareness in the US versus the dollars the gov't sends overseas to educate. Without this insight, the article just takes on an air of "one more black person blaming the government for the ills of the black community". We need to get away from this type of communication – it is very ineffective. If you have a point, make it resound. Numbers tell a good story.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:59 pm |
  28. laura

    When is it time for the blacks to take responsibility on for themselves. Maybe if they did alot less whining and alot less blaming a past that most of them never participated in, they might move foward. my ancestors came here also and they had it very hard and today I am still working my but off just to try and stay afloat. So why are blacks any different then me. I didn't whine, I did.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:59 pm |
  29. Nia - Arizona

    As always ignroance in blogs abounds. I love the comments about how black america needs to get it's act to gether and other racialy tinged comments pointing the finger as if premisuity lives only in the black community. When you think an issue doesn't effect you it's so easy to point the finger and say "those people are just being (you fill in the blank). Granted AIDS is a preventable disease and everyone needs to do thier part. But the information issn't getting out there as it should to all communities. AIDS is an issue for EVERYONE...have we not learned anything from the early days of AIDS when at first it was just written off as a gay disease? Now it's just a black issue? Black Americans are not doing anything different that white America isn't doing. Taking the "it's not my issue" or " it dosn't effect me" stance, isn't going to work anymore. Information on Sex and sexual diseases in general really isn't hitting mainstream the way it should. You can go into any highschool in American and teenagers still are not informed. Herpes and clamidiya is the number one disease for white America but you still don't hear about it. America in general is too conservative on the issue of sex. And it's killing us ALL. Information is limted in our schools and parents aren't talking about it. Churches aren't talking about it. Everyone is ignorant. Just last month we had almost 20 highschool suburban girls getting pregnant...just because. They chose not to where a condom risking getting a disease for the same reason a girl in the the inner city chose not to use protection.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:58 pm |
  30. damian

    Come to think of it...all of the stats they are quoting are very missleading. The CDC estimates that there have been roughly 400,000 total aids cases that fall underneath the "Black, non-hispanic" category since the beginning of the epidemic through 2006. This isn't aids deaths – this is just aids cases. If there are roughly 38 million African Americans in the US then this epidemic is only affecting roughly 1% of the African American population. I got all this data from the CDC website and the US Census website.

    If this is true then total aids deaths is much lower than 1%. Am I wrong?

    July 29, 2008 at 1:56 pm |
  31. Joy

    Blaming does not help. Accepting responsibility only works if you have something to take responsibility for. Most Black women get HIV from their male partners who are on the down low and not being honest. So, what do they take responsilibilty for? Choosing a man who is not honest? The only thing I would tell women (all women) NEVER EVER have unprotected sex even if its with your husband or long time boyfriend.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:55 pm |
  32. Yvette McKnight

    Dear John ...

    White folks steal, too. White folks stole my Grandma! (my Grandpa ... uncles ... aunts ... and cousins ... for that matter.)

    I agree with Laura: “AIDS in Black America isn’t a racial issue..." Race doesn't have a damn thing to do with it!

    I lost my youngest brother to AIDS, in March, and the fact that he was Black didn't have a damn thing to do with it. The fact that he was 'stupid' and made the decision to not use a condom ... was.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:55 pm |
  33. Woman from SC

    Why were the last two paragraphs of this article even included? What does racism from decades ago have to do with getting medical help now? Black America no longer has to 'wait' for medical care. Black America can get medical care just as easily as anyone else in America. This article is blaming "racist right wing white America" for the AIDs problem. Ridiculous. Strap one on.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:54 pm |
  34. Lisa

    Yes AIDS/HIV rate is terrible in the United States, however we as African -Americans need to take some of this responsibility upon ourselves. Stop having UNPROTECTED SEX with every John, Tom and Larry and stop using drugs!

    Wake up folks!


    July 29, 2008 at 1:52 pm |
  35. Jessie

    Hum! Nineteen years that Balm In Gilead has been providing training and capacity development to our faith leaders? Where in what state, city or town, or is it just the East Coast. I too have not been familiarized with this entity or heard of this organization. But before I go on Kevin In Dallas noted that precautions must be taken to prevent the continued spread of this disease, education, abstinence, and initiatives that fund more money in this country and the communities hit hardest by this disease is certainly necessary. But Kevin needs to understand also that there are necessary precautions to prevent Melanoma as well. Practicing not lying out stretched out for hours on tanning beds, wearing clothing that protects one from the harmful rays of the sun, to not directly bake in the Sun without utilizing or exercising care to prevent this horrible skin disease. So the point here is as a country and as citizens we as a people have to speak up more to our leaders in getting them to understand that charity starts at home. This disease is affecting the entire core of our existence as a nation. There is a trickle down affect of this disease that will decimate not just one ethnic group but spread it's way throughout our great nation.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:51 pm |
  36. David

    The trouble with HIV/AIDS prevention programs is that they are aimed too much at gays. This is not to belittle the HIV prevention programs for gays but in concentrating the efforts to one particular group has allowed the HIV problem among blacks to be overlooked. When the leading cause of deaths among black women ages 25-34 is AIDS then it is imperative that more attention needs to be focused on the problem.
    While there are societal and personal behaviors that partially explain HIV infection rate the holier than thou people are missing the point. All groups of people engage in risky behaviors, the transmittance of the disease can progress from one group to another in the right circumstances which are usually unpredictable. Therefore the only sane action is to directly address the current problem and marshall resources against to prevent further spread and decrease the infection rates among affected groups. Both gays and blacks need to be targeted with HIV prevention and HIV treatment to stop the scourage from spreading.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:43 pm |
  37. George B

    Let's stop lecturing people to be more responsible, etc. Really, would that change your own behavior? We need a strong public education campaign, like the "stop smoking" campaign. And I know that HIV/AIDS is no longer a "gay" disease, but I'd bet man-to-man sex still plays a large role in transmission. Even in 2008, when two men have sex they are labeled "effeminate." And in the Black or Latino communities (or on the football field or in the White House) it's still driven underground. To fix this problem we need to educate AND tell people that what they do privately is OK so that they'll be open to the message they need to hear. Hang in there, Duane.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:40 pm |
  38. Matt

    I didn't read through all the comments so maybe this point has been made. But it is possible to end the spread of aids. It's not like people get this from blood transfusions anymore. As a white American, I would be ashamed to call this a "white" disease if the numbers were flipped. This is spread through unprotected sex and IV drug use. This isn't a problem with America. This is a problem with those individuals and the poor choices that they made. For those that were born with this terrible disease they have my utmost sympathy for having to deal with something they in no way chose or deserve. But for the most part this a disease brought upon yourself.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:39 pm |
  39. modee

    kudo's Mike from nyc for your comment. "Point the finger squarely at the brothas on the down-low".

    North Carolina did a study PROVING the connections between incarcerated men with HIV being released into the community, and the direct correlation to new HIV cases in heterosexual women in the areas where the inmates were released to. The numbers tell everything. Wake up America, and fund more of these studies in more states, and get the dollars allocated to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. We are losing black men at an alarming rate, and now young black women are also being lost in this vicious cycle. In the black community HIV seems to have become the new 'crack' – Wiping out black people while the nation turns a blind eye. Shameful!

    July 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm |
  40. TR in California

    The information is there. The word is out on HIV/ AIDS. The problem is people do not heed it. Everyone wants privacy in their actions, but often the consequences are public. And please do not try to put this one on the black church. At some point people have to be responsible for themselves. It is your body, your health, your life.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm |
  41. Tucky

    In response to Neil who wrote: "Once again the bush administration shows it’s true colors. What if this epidemic was striking CEOs or wealthy white men? There would be panic in the streets and action from the white house faster than one can imagine. This administration cares NOTHING about people of color especially if they contract a disease deemed distasteful to w’s “bible beating” sensibilities. He thinks that they deserve what they get. Sad.

    Neil...this has absolutely nothing to do with the Bush administration ...however, it has everything to do with taking responsibility for one's own actions. You seem completely ignorant. Don't you find it interesting that this article leaves out how most of these people contracted AIDS in the first place.... Get a clue and stop looking for handouts from the government...it is NOT the government’s fault that some people CHOOSE to be unsafe! If you CHOOSE to be unsafe, you deserve the consequences! Responsibility lies within!

    July 29, 2008 at 1:36 pm |
  42. Patricia in South Carolina

    Really easy huh? If you are single and female it is almost impossible to convince men to wear condoms. Most men are in DENIAL. I have chosen abstinence. I am white and heterosexual, but that makes absolutely no difference to the AIDS virus.

    There is a general indifference to AIDS in America. THIS IS NOT A GAY DISEASE.

    I would like to add that women over the age of 50 is one of the fastest growing segments of HIV infections. This age group (I am 49) is in great denial. Viagra encourages a high sex drive with no mention of condoms or HIV. Viva La HIV

    July 29, 2008 at 1:35 pm |
  43. shell

    As a black woman, I am smart enough to know (because I read) that Africans NEED the financial support to help fight the disease there – they are starving and therefore offering their bodies without easy access to condoms to protect themselves. They also have not had anywhere near the amount of HIV/AIDS education that Americans have had. That is why they need the financial support.

    Now, let's look at America where we have pored over HIV/AIDs until we have become blue in the face. Enough education and condoms and clean needles have been provided to substantially decrease the effects of this disease. This is not genetic diabetes or cancer which afflicts people out of the blue (even though diet, exercise, and not smoking helps prevent these things sometimes). This is a disease obtained STRICTLY by poor behavior. BLACK PEOPLE, you have a CHOICE. Just like we have a choice with the drugs some people ignorantly believe are dropped into our community. Last time I checked, no one made you put that needle in your arm. No one made you engage in unprotected activity that leads us over and over again into the bottomless pit of economic and social dispair. It's a cycle I don't think will end in my lifetime because black people want to blame everyone except themselves. How sick. Stop getting pregnant (and thus making yourself vulnerable to catch HIV) and having babies in single parent households so you AND your HUSBAND can teach your children to love themselves enough to treat their bodies like temples. Also, teach your children to work for what they have instead of taking from others so you don't wind up in prison and contracting HIV. Also, teach your children that life is precious and you have no right to put your hands on anyone else or take their life so you (again) won't wind up in prison.....get the picture?....see the cycles?....ALL ABOUT CHOICES AND CULPABILITY AND RESPONSIBILITY

    July 29, 2008 at 1:34 pm |
  44. damian

    Not to be a geek...but I'm not sure where they are getting their numbers. They say that Aids is a top killer of African American women between 24 and 35 but I went to the CDC website and their stats say that there are only between 4000 and 5000 African American women IN TOTAL LIVING with HIV/Aids currently in the US. What gives?

    July 29, 2008 at 1:30 pm |
  45. GF, Los Angeles

    @ Courtney I'm not white so don't assume all the posters who are telling the black community to take responsibility are white and why should these "white posters" be embarrassed? Because they are asking tor the black community to be responsible they should be embarrassed? I'd send my money over to Africa any day then to help the ingrates here.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:28 pm |
  46. Alita Marie

    Well, i've never read so many misinformed statements in my life. Pick up a women's magazine and you will read stories about women who are/were in monogamous relationship who contracted HIV. MARRIED people are giving it to their partners as well. In fact, Glamour magazine did a wonderful story on HIV and there was a WHITE woman whose ex- HUSBAND gave it to her and she was not alone (i cannot tell you the issue month at the moment, google it.) So it's not a lack of monogamy that's causing the spread. One could be in a monogamous relationship and be with someone who loves them, but if that person is not aware that they have the disease and they spread it to their partner, doesn't that completely eviscerate most of the theories that some of you are selling? I think most people forget to have the STD/HIV conversation before they have sex or don't know how to bring it up before hand. People need to be forthcoming with their STD/HIV testing history BEFORE they become intimate.. condoms can only do so much. Use condoms BUT COMMUNICATION is the first step, followed by going with your partner to get TESTED at 3 months and then at 6 months, it's free in a lot of places, and then exchanging the results. The communication lines have to remain open along with the accountability and responsibility.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:25 pm |
  47. Jim

    There is no calvary. Realizing this is the first step to personal responsibility.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:24 pm |
  48. Kaydee

    Education is a huge thing with AIDS in Africa. Education, birth control, knowledge about the disease...those were needed in Africa because they did not exist.
    We have had education about AIDS since the 80's in the United States. It is not the governments fault that Black America is continuing with behaviors that knowingly contract AIDS. Whites are as well.
    You want tested, do it the same way whites do...walk into a clinic. There should not be any special priviledges one way or the other.

    Even our worst conditions in the U.S. are better than the norm for many people throughout the world. What we need is available, we just have to be willing to work for what we need and work even harder for what we want. Teach the kids to work, think, respect themselves and drop unneccesary pride and they will be fine.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:23 pm |
  49. Don

    It's interesting that the aids article is full of numbers and statistics but does not mention anything about "how" the disease is being contracted. What percentage is from unprotected sex, drug use, blood transfusions, etc? No one wants to talk about root cause, especially in the black community, because it doesn't make them look good. And when a black man stands up to point this out he's labeled an "Uncle Tom". A traitor to his people. I think the responses to this article are pretty much one sided about taking responsibility. Funny how the writer of the article couldn't mention that. Looks like typical one sided journalism.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:23 pm |
  50. Stacey

    I think that the point of this article was supposed to be more towards how the United States is not helping our own, but in MY opinion all these articles seem to do is stir up controversy. Yes, AIDS is a terrible disease, but this is why we still have issues about Black America and White America.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:20 pm |
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