The Black Aids Institute recently held their “Heroes in the Struggle” Awards Banquet in which both Danny Sr. and I, along with a lot of other individuals who I truly feel are much more deserving than either one of us, were honored. While I am greatly appreciative of the honor, the real hero in the struggle is the founder and CEO of The Black AIDS Institute, Mr. Phil Wilson.
Phil has been striving to educate African Americans about the disease of AIDS and HIV for over 20 years, and it is his work that truly needs to be recognized. You want to talk about struggle, imagine 20 years ago trying to educate a community about a disease that everyone wants to believe is a White, gay male disease. Imagine, trying to convince the Black churches, pastors and members to talk about safe sex, homosexuality, and that this disease is killing people. Imagine talking about what’s happening in the prisons and that what is happening is coming home when your son, husband, boyfriend gets out of jail. You want to talk about swimming up stream, this brother was swimming upstream with both hands tied behind his back, his feet shackled and a brick around his neck. Yet, Phil kept pushing.
Fast-forward to today, 20 years later and here is what we find. Forty-nine percent of all new HIV/AIDS cases are African Americans in comparison to 30 percent Whites, 18 percent Latino and two percent others. Of all the women who tested HIV 60 percent were Black, 19 percent were Latino, 19 percent were White and one
percent were other. Of all the men tested HIV positive 40 percent were Black, 37 percent were White, 20 percent were Latino and one percent were others. And the scariest stat of all YOUTH: 70 percent of all new cases are Black, 15 percent are White, 13 percent are Latino and two percent are others.
I was at the press conference Phil held over at KJLH on Thursday, February 7 (Black AIDS Awareness Day), along with Stevie Wonder, Hill Harper, Rev. Al Sharpton and a number of other concerned citizens. When Phil passed out this report and spoke these words I was amazed. The scariest thing about it is he says all of these case can be prevented, but we have to have serious conversation. We have to discuss testing in prisons (going in and coming out—keep fighting Congresswoman Waters). The Black church can and should continue to discuss abstinence, but after that discussion they should also discuss safe sex.
Now I am sure this is a conversation that not everyone is comfortable about
having. I can proudly say for years I was a homophobic, non-discussion brother myself. But in the end, we must realize AIDS is real. HIV is real. DEATH is real. And if we don’t discuss it, who is going to discuss it, because it is US who are dying. We need federal funding to address this issue, and NOW, while everyone is fighting for our votes we need to make this an issue. I know Phil and Black AIDS Institute will raise the question, but they need to know they have our community’s support to really get any traction.
Well, Phil you have my support. Keep fighting the good fight, keep the pressure on, you are the real Hero in the struggle.
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