Health

New HIV/AIDS Findings: What's Working?

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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.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I am a black, gay man who is HIV positive. I did not contract HIV because the Bush administration didn't provide me with enough AIDS education. I contracted HIV because I had unprotected sex with a multitude of strangers, trying to fill the void of an absent father. This is the same void that causes most of the problems that plague the black community. Crime, poverty, low self-esteem, poor academic achievement, incarceration, and out-of-wedlock births all stem from one source: FATHERLESSNESS. Until black folks come to terms with this very sobering fact, there is noting the government can, or should do about the African-American AIDS epidemic. If Phil Wilson wants to come up with a strategy for fighting AIDS in the black community, he should suggest that black women wait to have children with men they are married and committed to, and that black men remain in the home and raise these children, build their characters and instill in them the values that might prevent one from contracting HIV.

Sent by DJ | 10:46 PM | 8-5-2008

AIDS is not a black disease. Generally, it is a disease the largely affects people below the poverty line and those that are often under educated. In the US, many blacks fall into that category. With poverty often comes lack of sex education, among other things. I understand the goal of the CNN article but the headline, and the quote it is derived from, is harmful and inflammatory. As a black woman I'm sitting here cringing. It paints me as an undesirable in terms of dating and marriage. I am not poor, uneducated or HIV+ but the CNN article's presumption is that AIDS is so prevalent in the black community that I probably have it solely because I am a black woman. You must look at individuals and how they live their lives. No one knows my circumstances and whether I am high risk. I am not. However, after reading the CNN article I know many men would unfairly steer clear of me -- which is unfortunate and saddening.

Sent by Lana | 11:07 PM | 8-5-2008

Lana:

I watched the same CNN series of six hours (including the two-hour preview). Did I mention I'm a black woman and I never felt "undesirable in terms of dating and marriage" from watching the series. Did you see any part of the series that featured successful single black women? And the 24 year-old HIV positive lady featured doesn't look to be in poverty.

AIDS might not be a black disease but it is sure affecting a lot of blacks. If not, why do blacks make up 50 percent of new cases? And yes, poverty is a factor but not the overwhelming reason for the disease being an epidemic.

Eight years ago, while in college, one of my roomates was a Nursing student. As she was doing her hours in a medical facility to complete her program, she told me one afternoon, she was shocked to see the many faces of HIV and AIDS. Some of them were not downtrodden, they had good careers and looked fit.

A few years later, I got to read (what my Nursing roomate already knew) that my community where I spent time during those college days was one of the top-five new AIDS cases in the country. You wouldn't think of such with all its glitz and glamour - heard anything about Miami or South Beach?

Sent by Moji | 5:27 PM | 8-6-2008

DJ thank you so much! Man I think you hit it right on the head. While I think a case can be made for having broader outreach to the poorer Latino(a) communities because of the lack of access to services and language barriers I just don't buy it in the black community. I would have thought the whole crack epidemic only with it's multiplicity of illness including HIV & AIDS would have left little doubt as to the causes of HIV. While there needs to be more education and messages tailored to communities of color no one is going to save us but US. The black church has utterly failed to put it's arms around the gays and sexually active young women coming down with HIV in it's churches, but where is the hue and cry? Write your mega church and ask where are they? In my view the "community" needs to confront itself over it homophobic views that help create DL's...We have work to do people!

Sent by raul4515 | 8:32 PM | 8-6-2008

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