Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Opinion Pieces on HIV/AIDS Among U.S. Black Women, Reaction to Vice Presidential Debate
During the vice presidential debate earlier this month, PBS news correspondent Gwen Ifill, who moderated the discussion, asked Vice President Dick Cheney, "I want to talk to you about AIDS, and not about AIDS in China or Africa, but AIDS right here in this country, where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their [white] counterparts. What should the government's role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?" Both Cheney and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) shifted the conversation to foreign HIV/AIDS policy and general health care policy following the question. While Cheney said that he was "not aware" that black women are 13 times as likely to die of AIDS-related causes as white women, Edwards said that HIV/AIDS prevention in the United States is part of the "bigger question" about the future of health care in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/7). Two opinion pieces on the issue are summarized below:
- Jon Cohen, Slate: Both vice presidential candidates were "utterly lost" on the question of HIV/AIDS prevalence among black women in the United States and "suffered sharp criticism for their shockingly vacuous replies," but a "sophisticated" answer to Ifill's question is a "tall order" because researchers do not have an explanation, making it difficult to form a response to the problem, Cohen, a writer for Science magazine, writes in a Slate opinion piece. CDC offers a "laundry list" of reasons -- including poverty and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the two most "convincing" explanations, according to Cohen. Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute, suggests that the "single biggest driver" of the spread of HIV among black women is the incarceration of black men, Cohen says, adding that Wilson and others argue that women are at a greater risk of contracting HIV because of disruptions in their sexual networks. In addition, "black women have a small pool of black men to choose from at any given time," making them "vulnerable" to becoming involved with men who practice "risky behaviors" without their knowledge, Cohen says. However, Cohen concludes that the "muddy truth" is that the high rate of HIV/AIDS among African-American women is a combination of many factors (Cohen, Slate, 10/27).
- Wendi Thomas, Memphis Commercial Appeal: Cheney's and Edwards' "non-answers" expose their "blindness" to the issue of HIV/AIDS among African-American women and reveal "general indifference" in the United States to the epidemic, columnist Thomas writes in a Commercial Appeal opinion piece. "We must teach women how to avoid risky behavior" through both abstinence and prevention education, as well as developing new prevention methods -- such as microbicides -- that women can use to protect themselves if men will not wear condoms, Thomas concludes (Thomas, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 10/28).
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