‘Complacency,’ ‘Stigma’ Hindering Efforts To Reduce HIV/AIDS in Black Communities, Opinion Piece Says
"Nearly 30 years after the discovery of HIV and AIDS, the epidemic is still ravaging black neighborhoods in Baltimore and across the nation," Kevin Fenton -- director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention -- writes in a Baltimore Sun opinion piece. Fenton writes that "complacency about HIV and the continued stigma associated with the disease are hindering progress by preventing too many African-Americans from seeking either HIV testing and treatment or support from their friends and family," adding that "this is a challenge that can be overcome."
According to Fenton, the Obama administration last month "took an important step in confronting the United States' HIV epidemic" when CDC and White House officials announced a five-year campaign called Act Against AIDS, which is "designed to refocus the nation's attention on the HIV crisis here at home." Fenton notes that 14 black civic organizations -- including the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Council of Negro Women -- are "joining the CDC to increase knowledge, awareness and action within black communities across the country." He adds that the campaign "will harness the strength and reach of these organizations by enhancing their ability to make HIV prevention a core component of their daily activities."
"By raising the visibility of HIV and AIDS, the new campaign also aims to confront and overcome the fear and stigma that help keep HIV alive in black communities," Fenton says. He adds that he has "been encouraged in recent years to see black leaders, including black faith leaders, speak out more openly across the nation about the need to confront HIV and the stigma that persists surrounding this disease." Fenton writes that "[e]nding this epidemic will require not only frank and difficult discussions about HIV but also a shared sense of responsibility and commitment," concluding, "All of us can and must be part of the solution" (Fenton, Baltimore Sun, 5/27).