Officials Should Be More ‘Imaginative’ in Addressing HIV/AIDS Among African Americans, Wall Street Journal Columnist Says
Although new statistics show that HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects African Americans, the trend is "not new" and is "deepening with each passing year," Michael Waldholz, Wall Street Journal health and science news editor, writes in his column. Many HIV/AIDS advocates say that government officials are "not being imaginative enough" in how they handle this "burgeoning racial disparity," Waldholz says. Phill Wilson, founder of the Black AIDS Institute, said, "AIDS is not a primary issue in this country anymore, period. But the fact is this: The epidemic has not let up in black America," according to Waldholz. Recently released CDC statistics show that 54% of the approximately 43,000 new HIV cases reported in the United States in 2002 were among African Americans, compared with 35% of new cases in 1993, he notes. In addition, AIDS-related complications were the leading cause of death among African Americans between the ages of 25 and 44 in 2001, Waldholz states.
Shift in Focus
The CDC in April announced a shift in the focus of its HIV/AIDS prevention strategy "that appears to be driven, at least in part, by the changing face of AIDS," Waldholz writes (Waldholz, Wall Street Journal, 9/11). According to the new prevention strategy, the government will invest most heavily in initiatives that focus on identifying people who are already HIV-positive. The CDC has said that the current emphasis on community outreach prevention programs has proven ineffective, citing an increase in the number of new HIV cases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/18). Although CDC officials have not said that the policy is aimed at African-American and other minority communities, Dr. Harold Jaffe, head of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, said that by funding community-based health centers in "poor and urban settings," the agency is addressing the epidemic's "growing racial disparity," according to Waldholz. However, Wilson said that the CDC's efforts are "far short of what's needed," adding that efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in the black community "requires an approach and leadership that is distinctly different in its emphasis from what the government is doing now or has been doing for years," Waldholz says. He concludes that efforts by the CDC and HIV/AIDS advocates will "[h]opefully ... reverse this disturbing trend soon" (Wall Street Journal, 9/11).
A Kaiser Family Foundation fact sheet on African Americans and HIV/AIDS is available online.