Black Leaders Call for Urgent Campaign To Increase HIV Testing, Awareness
U.S. black leaders on Monday at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto pledged to make efforts to increase access to care and treatment for black U.S. residents and called for an urgent campaign to increase HIV testing and awareness among blacks in the country, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 49% of new AIDS diagnoses occur among blacks, who represent 13% of the U.S. population (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/15). In addition, according to CDC, 46% of black men who have sex with men are living with HIV. Two-thirds of U.S. teenagers between ages 13 and 19 who are HIV-positive are black. "Today, AIDS in America is a black disease," Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute, said. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said, "HIV is affecting African Americans disproportionately here in the West, in the most powerful country in the world, and this is unacceptable, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (Hours, AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/14). According to the Chronicle, a coalition of black leaders from the U.S. pledged to increase access to HIV care and treatment for blacks living with HIV; reduce rates of HIV among blacks; and increase the percentage of blacks who receive HIV tests. At the conference, NAACP Board Chair Julian Bond said, "Now is the time for us to face the fact that AIDS has become a black disease," adding, "It has invaded our house, and our leaders must accept ownership and fight it with everything we have" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/15). Bond also called on U.S. blacks to address the "evil" of homophobia, which he said was "perhaps the greatest single barrier to our ability to talk about AIDS." Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) called on the community to "understand that you are as vulnerable as anyone else and first take responsibility, so that we can demand from others that they take responsibility" (Blinkhorn, CQ HealthBeat). The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is not attending the conference, said in a statement, "Because of poverty, ignorance and prejudice, AIDS has been allowed to stalk and kill black America like a serial killer." Jackson added, "But we have also been a compliant victim, submitting through inaction. It is now time for us to fight AIDS like the major civil rights issue it is" (Duff-Brown, AP/Houston Chronicle, 8/14).
Kaisernetwork.org is serving as the official webcaster of the conference. View the guide to coverage and all webcasts, interviews and a daily video round up of conference highlights at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2006. A video of a press conference featuring black leaders is available online.