By now, you've heard the news that the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. is higher than previously known.
Just to be clear, the news is not that the epidemic seems to be worsening, but, rather, that the detection methods are better, which means that we can now know approximately when people became infected and how many actually are.
All fine and good, but why, in the richest country in the world, do African Americans, as a group, have an HIV/AIDS infection rate that rivals that of the developing world?
I participated in a town hall forum with Phill Wilson of the Black AIDS Institute last fall, in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus annual legislative weekend. What impressed me about that conference was — in contrast to the new data we're just learning about — how much we do know about what works and what does not in fighting HIV/AIDS. There were so many great initiatives already up and running. I was amazed. (I recognize that that was a reflection of my own ignorance, but I was under the impression that this was all new news.)
Wilson says the big issue is coordination: one hand does not know what the other is doing, so the best practices and innovative ideas that are working well in some communities are not replicated. Of course, there are also the systemic problems with health care in this country, but still.
We'd like to hear from you. What innovative, effective programs to fight HIV/AIDS are working where you live? If we hear from enough of you, we will find a way to showcase these ideas in an upcoming program.
I'll figure something out. We cannot let this epidemic go on.
And, speaking of news, meet the new Washington bureau chief for NBC News, Mark Whitaker. A quiet trailblazer, he spent most of his career at NEWSWEEK magazine, winning four national magazine awards as editor. Now, he's heading the network's D.C. bureau. His new role has to be one of the most glamorous jobs in journalism, filled rather remarkably for the last decade by someone who was surely one of the city's best loved, as well as best respected, journalists, Tim Russert, who was not a glamour hound. Russert was a down-to-earth teddybear who brought the heat.
Big shoes, but Whitaker has his own big shoes, not least that he is the first African American to fill many of the key jobs in which he's served, including this one.
And because it's Monday, and I know some people are sad to be back at work, we decided to make it funky for you with Brian Culbertson.
Enjoy. You know you can't fake the funk.