When you read this week’s Sentinel you are going to find an ad from Gilead Sciences, Inc. regarding AIDS and HIV in the Black Community. This is the first of a series of ads and articles that we have partnered with Gilead to run within the paper. We have launched this education partnership with Gilead to address the many causes and issues surrounding this deadly disease. Now, we all know that AIDS/HIV is something our community has been ignoring for far too long. But, the truth is we have to face it! As my dad would say, “we cannot continue walking around pretending the elephant is not in the room”.
When we first started talking about this education program, I was like most of the people within our community. I didn’t believe this problem could and/or would affect me. My friend Tony Wafford, was the first to start educating me about the realities of AIDS/HIV and how it was affecting Black people more than any other people in America. He began teaching me about the real issues of this disease and how to separate them from the myths. I was shocked to learn that Today, African Americans are ten times more likely than whites to have AIDS, and we account for more than half of all HIV diagnoses and AIDS-related deaths in this country. As a black man and a father of four young children, I am terrified as to how this disease will affect our current and future generations. I am alarmed at the many African-American men, women and young people who go to the doctors office each and everyday oblivious to the very real threat of HIV infection. Ignorance, denial and fear is a lethal combination. And it’s crippling our community.
As with other chronic health problems such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, there are many reasons why the black community is disproportionately ravaged by AIDS. Poverty and lack of medical insurance top the list. So do drug abuse and the shockingly high rate of incarcerated black men. U.S. prisoner’s have the highest incidence of HIV infection of any population, yet little is being done to educate or protect individuals from becoming HIV positive while incarcerated and, subsequently, infecting others – especially their female partners – after being released.
While prevention and education still must be the goal, I was also amazed to learn that if you were HIV positive it does not mean THE END. The truth is HIV drug combinations work and are more effective than ever before. A 25-year-old who is diagnosed with HIV and receives the proper antiviral drugs can expect to live for an average of 35 years. New treatment combinations are also simpler than ever before which makes following the doctors treatment plan that much easier (this is key to a patients survival).
HIV testing itself is also simpler, HIV tests no longer require blood samples, you can get your results in minutes, and the test are usually free and available just about anywhere, with no questions asked.
So why do our black sisters and brothers continue to get HIV? I believe it is because, we have not taken the time to be educated about this disease, and we are still walking around pretending that it is a white, gay mans disease. (The statistics demonstrate that this is certainly not the case). One thing is clear, HIV testing and early treatment can save your life and the lives of those you love.
I hope that you find this information helpful and informative. But I also hope that is causes you to take action. I pray that you share this information with your family and friends; I hope it starts conversations within homes across the country, and I hope that with a little education and a little common sense we can get a handle on this epidemic that is plaguing our community.
”Let me know what you think of this campaign, let me know what other issues we need to address; let me know what other stories we need to tell, let me know what is on your mind. I really do want to hear from you, I want you to “Talk to Danny.”
Danny J. Bakewell, Jr.
President & Executive Editor