Wall Street Journal Profiles AIDS Epidemic Among African Americans
The Wall Street Journal today dissects the upward trend in HIV infections among African Americans, noting that policy makers, AIDS activists and "even drug companies" are examining why prevention measures that have been successful with other populations "don't seem to be resonating with blacks." African Americans, who make up only 12% of the U.S. population, now account for more than half of new HIV infections. The Journal reports that the higher infection rate among blacks can be attributed to a number of factors -- "enduring socioeconomic disparities," lack of access to medical care, a distrust of the medical establishment, a disproportionate representation in U.S. prisons and a greater chance of living in communities with high rates of STDs and "other social ills." In addition, the African-American community still considers the subject of men who have sex with men "taboo"; black men who do so may not consider themselves homosexual and may not divulge their sexual behavior to female sexual partners. In an accompanying graph, the Journal also relates poverty to the prevalence of AIDS cases, plotting the gross domestic product per capita in 45 different countries against their respective HIV infection rates. The graph indicates that "[t]here is growing evidence that as HIV prevalence rises, national income growth falls" (Carrns, Wall Street Journal, 5/30).
Profile: Doctor Helped Identify African 'Slim' as AIDS
A second Journal article today profiles Dr. Anne Bayley, a British-born physician who, according to the Journal, was one of the first to "make the connection" between a wasting disease in Africa called "Slim" and the illness that in the 1980s began to crop up among San Francisco homosexuals. Despite the similarities of the symptoms seen in the two disparate groups, physicians and health workers in Africa were hesitant to make the connection, "figur[ing] that an illness of white American homosexuals was one thing they didn't need to worry about." Bayley, who worked as a missionary doctor in Zambia in 1961, was in the early 1980s an associate professor of medicine at the university teaching hospital in the Zambian capital of Lusaka, where she also ran a tumor clinic specializing in Kaposi's sarcoma. At the time, KS was "not uncommon" among older East African men. She recalls to the Journal, "I was somewhat surprised that in 1981 and '82, I got papers regularly about a strange new disease" featuring an aggressive form of KS among young American and European homosexuals. In 1983, Bayley saw several patients in her clinic who also had an "aggressive form" of KS, and guessed they might have AIDS, saying, "I knew almost at once what was happening." But it was not until 1984, when HIV was identified and an antibody test developed, that she was certain that it was the same infection. She also recalls observing an "exponential" growth of cases in Zambia, indicating an "exploding epidemic," but says the trend was ignored by the Zambian ministry of health, which "used the small total number" of HIV-positive individuals to "dismiss the skyrocketing trend." Bayley left Africa in 1990 and in 1994 became an Anglican priest. Though now retired from both medicine and the priesthood, she still returns often to Africa, saying that AIDS "continues to shape my life." She added, "Every time I think I'm closing the books on HIV, I get asked to do something else" (Schoofs, Wall Street Journal, 5/30).