Los Angeles Panel of Black Leaders Discusses How To Prevent HIV, Fight Stigma in Black Community
A panel of black leaders in Los Angeles at an event organized by the African American Community Development Initiative and the L.A. County Department of Health Services' Office of AIDS Programs and Policy on Saturday urged greater "sexual responsibility" and "instilling a sense of pride and dignity" among blacks to fight HIV/AIDS and eliminate the stigma attached to the disease, the Los Angeles Times reports. Blacks represent about 12% of the nation's population but 54% of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the country, according to CDC. The panelists, who included religious leaders, social advocates, social workers and health officials, said the discrepancy was due in part to "social and spiritual shortcomings," according to the Times. "This is not just about the disease," said Diane Weathers, editor of ESSENCE magazine, adding, "It's about self-esteem, poverty, ignorance and fear." The panelists agreed that HIV/AIDS and sex need to be topics of discussion in churches, which they said "ignored the problem" in the past, according to the Times. Some panelists also said the black community needs to be more accepting of the black gay community, HIV testing should be more strongly encouraged and women should refuse unprotected intercourse with their partners.
Panelists Express Anger at Vice Presidential Debate
Some panelists also said there was a sense that "the nation's powerbrokers had abandoned" the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the black community, the Times reports. Speakers "angrily" referred to the answers given by Vice President Dick Cheney (R) and former vice presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) to a question about HIV/AIDS among African-American women during the vice presidential debate in October, according to the Times (Pierson, Los Angeles Times, 12/5). PBS news correspondent Gwen Ifill, who moderated the debate, said to 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 Edwards shifted the conversation to foreign HIV/AIDS policy and general health care policy. While Cheney said 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, 10/19). "I always knew they didn't have a clue," Rep. Maxine Walters (D-Calif.) said on Saturday, adding, "If we're going to tackle these issues, we're going to have to do it ourselves."
Times Examines HIV Stigma Among Black Women
The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined how the "persist[ence]" of an "attitude of intolerance, denial and silence" about HIV/AIDS in the African American community is "undercutting government and community efforts to stop the spread of the disease" among black women, according to health experts, patient advocates and community activists. While there is not a way to "definitively" show that reducing the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS would lower the prevalence rate among African Americans, many health experts believe it could have "clear" benefits, according to the Times (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 12/6). The complete article is available online.