Report Recommends Five-Point Plan To Reduce Spread of HIV Among U.S. Blacks
The National Minority AIDS Council on Thursday released a report calling for U.S. policymakers to implement a five-point strategy aimed at combating HIV/AIDS among blacks in the country, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Fulbright, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/16). Blacks account for 13% of the U.S. population but make up more than half of new HIV cases in the country, according to CDC (Dunham, Reuters Health, 11/16). The 27-page report -- titled, "African Americans, Health Disparities and HIV/AIDS: Recommendations for Confronting the Epidemic in Black America" -- was released as part of events leading up to World AIDS Day, which will be held on Dec. 1 (Taylor, Long Island Newsday, 11/16). For the report, NMAC examined the social, economic and personal factors that are the basis for the HIV/AIDS epidemic among U.S. blacks (Reuters Health, 11/16). The report calls on advocates to strengthen black communities by addressing the issue of affordable housing; eliminating marginalization, stigma and discrimination against black men who have sex with men; reducing the impact of incarceration on the spread of HIV among blacks; broadening HIV education programs and promote early detection through voluntary, routine testing; and expanding substance abuse prevention programs, drug treatment and recovery services, and needle-exchange programs (NMAC release, 11/16). The report also outlines several factors that have made blacks increasingly vulnerable to HIV transmission, including limited access to health insurance, distrust of the health care system, higher levels of homelessness, and drug use. According to the report, more than 40% of U.S. prisoners are black and AIDS prevalence among prisoners is three times higher than the prevalence in the general population. To address the issue, the report calls on U.S. prisons and jails to make condoms available and to implement HIV prevention and education programs. State prisons in Mississippi and Vermont -- as well as county jails in New York City; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco -- already make condoms available to inmates, according to the report. It also calls on prisons to provide routine, voluntary HIV testing among inmates during entry and release. "We certainly need to have each of the prison systems think more thoroughly about the impact that failure to provide condoms can have if there's significant (HIV) transmission within the walls of their facilities," Robert Fullilove, a medical professor at Columbia University who wrote the report, said (Reuters Health, 11/16).
The report is endorsed by about 30 black politicians, civil rights leaders and medical experts, including NAACP Chair Julian Bond, former HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan, former U.S. Surgeon General David Sachter and National Urban League President Marc Morial. Several organizations -- such as the AIDS Project Los Angeles, Harm Reduction Coalition, Lambda Legal and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS -- also endorsed the report (NMAC release, 11/16). "We have to stop the devastation this disease is causing in our community, and I think this plan offers a clear blueprint," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a press release, adding, "The fact is that this administration and the Republican Congress have never paid much attention to the needs of African-American or minority communities when it comes to fighting AIDS, and you can bet that we are going to work to change that in the new Congress" (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/16). Aubrey Lewis, who founded the Community Wellness Center, said the report is "wonderful and nice to put it out, but where HIV/AIDS is happening is deep down in the bowels of the community. HIV/AIDS is just a symptom of other, more serious problems" (Long Island Newsday, 11/16).