Black AIDS Institute Issues Report on History of AIDS in Black America; Asserts That Tools to End the AIDS Epidemic are Now Available
Report Advocates for Appropriate Investment in Testing and Linkage to Care, Development of Science and Treatment Education Capacity among Black Communities, Overhaul of AIDS Treatment and Prevention Infrastructures
LOS ANGELES, June 2, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Black AIDS Institute, the only national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black people, today issued "30 years is Enuf: the History of the AIDS Epidemic in Black America," the authoritative report on the epidemic representing a Black point of view. The report asserts that recent, unprecedented clinical advances provide the necessary tools to end the AIDS epidemic. The report also lays out a roadmap to achieve this ambitious goal, including the call for a massive investment in science and treatment education capacity-building in Black communities.
On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the first official report of AIDS among six gay men in Los Angeles, the report highlights breakthrough medical advances over the last year that make it realistic to envision an end to the epidemic. These breakthroughs include a major clinical trial demonstrating that early initiation of antiretroviral therapy sharply lowered the risk of HIV transmission, positive evidence from a clinical trial demonstrating the partial efficacy of a vaginal microbicide and the release of major findings that daily use of pre-exposure prophylaxis significantly reduced the risk of HIV transmission among men who have sex with men.
"Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic, our prevention toolbox has exploded, giving us the ability to dramatically cut new infections and improve health outcomes," said Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. "The clinical prevention breakthroughs we've seen in the last year are nothing short of earth shattering and finally make it possible for us to start working toward an 'end game' for the epidemic. We're now at a deciding moment – but the question remains, will we seize this opportunity or will we allow AIDS to remain a scourge for another 30 years?"
The report calls on the President and Congress to make the necessary and appropriate investments to avert millions of deaths today and save billions of dollars in the future, recognizing that the only way to truly change the course of the AIDS epidemic is to engage in bold, courageous and determined action. The Black AIDS Institute report specifically states the need to dismantle the silos of prevention and treatment, replacing current efforts with a unified approach that recognizes that prevention and treatment are part of a single continuum. The report also calls for a massive investment in HIV science and treatment education capacity in Black communities, which would build vitally needed scientific literacy and create a nationwide legion of HIV/AIDS advocates and educators in Black America. In addition, the report asserts the need for an unprecedented commitment to vastly expand and aggressively promote HIV testing and treatment.
The report also includes a frank and honest "report card," grading each president who has served during the 30-year course of the epidemic. It assesses each president based on global and domestic efforts and notes achievements such as the Ryan White Care Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, creation of the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, Minority AIDS Initiative, President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, development of the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy and healthcare reform. It also addresses failures, including mandatory HIV testing efforts, an immigration ban, lack of funding, lack of federal support for needle exchange programs and a focus on unproven abstinence-only programs. Presidents Reagan's, Bush's, Clinton's, Bush's and Obama's HIV/AIDS legacy each receives a grade, ranging from an F to an A.
"Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS, and the impact on Black Americans has been particularly severe," said Maxine Waters, Congresswoman from the 35th district of California. "People of color represent a majority of new HIV infections, new AIDS diagnoses, people living with HIV/AIDS and deaths from AIDS. Black Americans have the highest rate of new HIV infections and new AIDS diagnoses of any racial group, and approximately 2 percent of Black Americans today are HIV positive. That's why the Minority AIDS Initiative, which I established when I was the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is so important – because it builds infrastructure and capacity in minority communities and targets resources to the people who are most affected by this devastating disease."
AIDS has always disproportionately affected the Black community, particularly women, gay men and young people. While the early days of the epidemic are consistently portrayed as only having affected gay White men, Black people accounted for 26 percent of AIDS cases reported in 1981-1983, though only 12 percent of the U.S. population. The number of new HIV infections among Black people surpassed Whites by the late 1980s, and by 2006 Black people were 7.3 times more likely than whites to become infected. Today Black people represent 46 percent of the 1.1 million Americans living with HIV, 45 percent of new HIV cases and 51 percent of annual AIDS-related deaths.
"Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, only four countries have HIV prevalence as high as conservative estimates of HIV burden in Black America," said Cornelius Baker, chairman of the board of the Black AIDS Institute and a member of the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. "Black Americans, and Black youth especially, have not benefited from treatment and prevention advances as significantly as other racial and ethnic groups. The sub-optimal HIV outcomes that Black Americans experience are the result of a variety challenges, including late diagnosis of HIV, inadequate healthcare access, discontinuity of care, treatment adherence challenges and a higher prevalence of other serious co-morbidities."
The report notes that it was more than two decades into the epidemic before AIDS was recognized to pose a "state of emergency" for Black America. "30 years is Enuf" notes that young Black people are particularly and disproportionately affected by AIDS and features first-hand insights and perspectives on the disease, documented in personal essays authored by 30 Black Americans under the age of 30. The report also addresses the Black community's response to the AIDS crisis and notes the need to talk openly about stigma, discrimination and homophobia, which have been drivers of the epidemic, as well as accountability and responsibility, which are the touchstones of any successful effort to end the epidemic in Black communities.
"The AIDS epidemic began before I was born – I've never known a world without it," said Jurnee Smollett, AIDS activist and actress from "Friday Night Lights" and "The Great Debaters." "And yet despite its omnipresence in our lives, there remains a pervasive silence around AIDS among young people, particularly young women. Without an informative dialogue, ignorance flourishes and breeds both stigma and sexual orientation-based bias, all of which plays a significant role in the spread of the disease. We have an amazing opportunity now to break this cycle and seriously address these critical barriers by speaking out and taking action."
To access the full report, please visit www.blackaids.org
About the Black AIDS Institute
Founded in May of 1999, the Black AIDS Institute is the only national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black people. The Institute's Mission is to stop the AIDS pandemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black leaders, institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV. The Institute interprets public and private sector HIV policies, conducts trainings, offers technical assistance, disseminates information and provides advocacy and mobilization from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view. For more information, please visit www.blackaids.org.
SOURCE Black AIDS Institute