The HIV Panic That Should Happenby-geisha.grrrl-©
According to BlackWomen'sHealth, in 1999, African Americans made up 13 percent of the population, yet accounted for 41 percent of all AIDS cases in the United States. The Harvard AIDS Institute estimated that by the year 2000 more than half of all our country's AIDS cases would be within the African American community.
Numerous reports have been made about the differing percentages of Black women and men infected with HIV/AIDS, emails circulate, billboards grow, commercials air and, knowledge seems to be in great supply. So why are the numbers continuing to grow? Why are more and more Black people finding themselves the receivers of the news that they are, in fact, HIV positive?
Is it truly the oft-used "Gay men are the culprits," excuse? Is it really the reasoning that Blacks are sexually promiscuous animals who cannot control their urges long enough to put on a prophylactic? Could it really be that there are more closeted Bisexual and Gay Black men than ever?
There are so many questions and seemingly so few answers. It leaves me with an empty feeling inside knowing that Black and Hispanic women are finding themselves alone in the offices of so many clinics day after day, alone to deal with the questions that have no answers.
Where is it coming from? Why is it concentrated in so many lower-income communities? Why are so many minority women infected with the virus? Who is doing it? Why not use condoms? Why not protect ourselves?
It pains me to ask these questions, knowing that there are no forthcoming answers or quick-fixes for the problem.
I have talks on an almost daily basis with Black and Hispanic men and women who have their own views on why the HIV epidemic in America is at an all time high in the minority communities. I come out with the same frustrations... that it is truly the fault of the GLBT community that has seeped into other communities, that the reason is because of Black men who are afraid to come out, that the reason is because minorities are too afraid to be tested for HIV and, so many other reasons too numerous to name.
Today the topic once again came up and I was faced with misnomers and irrational generalizations about why the virus is so prevalent in the poorer areas of the US.
One theory even came up that black people are less likely to be tested because of the fear that HIV is a man-made disease built solely to destroy the minority communities in America. That may seem odd to those readers who do not live the lives that we live, but when one is raised knowing about the Tuskegee Experiments, it doesn't seem so far fetched anymore.
Who do we go to when we're sick if the healers are killing us? Who do we go to for privacy and dignity when we are listed and named as soon as positive tests come back? Where do we turn when we understand that being HIV positive is still something so dirty, so sickening and, so horrible that we believe even our family members will turn us away?
How do we deal with that? How do we stop it? How do we come to collectively understand that we are at a crossroads and a decision must be made and followed before we wipe ourselves out?
Vilifying minority men and women may push them to deny symptoms but it is only the beginning of an attempt to hold ourselves accountable for what is going on in our communities. It's being shared between men and women [especially in the gay and black communities].
We need to take responsibility for what's happening in OUR WORLD and start to do something about it. Use a condom EVERYTIME! Stop the one night stands. Stop the anonymous oral sex in clubs and house parties. Grow respect for not only yourself and your community, but for your world.
This epidemic has gone entirely too far. In a country that is arguably one of the most advanced and richest countries in the world, there is absolutely no reason that our education system cannot take up some of the slack and start to teach the younger children about what HIV is, what it does to the human body, how it is spread and, how to prevent it from spreading.
There is no reason parents cannot start to be open with their children and let them know that abstinence is not horrible, that condoms are not sinful and that thinking through decisions completely before making them is not bad.
There is not a reason in the world that we cannot all be accountability partners for each other to begin to change what is killing us all, in one way or another.