Tony Wafford (Courtesy photo)

I’ve been working on a project to both educate and inform the Black community about lupus, the importance of getting tested for lupus as well as getting involved in a clinical trial to treat it. I’m no stranger to the disease. I have and have had several family members who not only suffer(ed) from lupus but also have passed away because of this disease.

Let me tell you what’s deep.  Since the beginning of this project, damn near 100% of those I’ve approached and asked, “Do you know anyone with lupus?”  have responded “Yes!” So, I’m asking you readers, “Do you know of anyone with lupus?” I bet most of you just said, “Yes!”

This got me to thinking.  Why is it that there are so many people in our community who either know someone that has lupus or has it themselves and no one’s sounding the alarm?  So, I decided to do some homework and, guess what, I believe I came up with the why.

Why?   It’s because women are 2 to 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with lupus than men and, when you add to that that lupus is most prevalent among women of color (mainly Black women), why would this society care.? I know this sounds rough and raw, but it’s the truth, and, if you’re scared to hear the truth, maybe you should stop reading right now.

Think about it like this:  Isn’t it interesting that a small group of mainly old men who either can’t get anyone pregnant (or no one is willing sleep with them to get pregnant) are raising so much hell about the unborn while women 15 to 44 years old are dying daily from lupus? I guess photos of fetuses get a better sound bite than living, breathing young Black women.

While they pretend they care about life, I ask myself how this can be when Black women account for 9 out of 10 lupus cases diagnosed in this country, as if I didn’t know the answer and, if you’re honest with yourself, you know the answer, too.  And don’t start with trying to charge the victim with the crime, bringing up issues of social determinants of health, which is a major issue when we talk about Black health.

It would be disingenuous not to address the many barriers in American society that exacerbate the problem of Black health in America.  Additionally, let’s not overlook the greatest barrier to good health in my community which I would argue is political determinants of Health.

Oh, you think I’m just making this up just to blame the dominant society for our health problems. Well, let me ask you a question.  Why is it that, here in the beautiful state of California, most of our HIV/AIDS infections are right here in Los Angeles County.  Right here in southern California we have the highest HIV infection rates of anywhere else in the state.

Yet, the city of San Francisco, a city of only 46.9 square miles, receives more money to deal with HIV/AIDS than all of Los Angeles County which is 4,751 square miles. You can put San Francisco inside of Los Angeles County 101 times, yet San Francisco receives more money to deal with their HIV/AIDS crisis than all of Los Angeles County.

Join me and let’s say it together, “Political determinants of health is a major cause of health inequity in the Black community”!  That’s all that is, politics! At some point, we’ve got to talk about political determinants of health which is the root cause of the gross negligence of health inequities when it comes to Black, Brown and poor people in this country.

So, until that question gets on the table, sisters and brothers, let’s do all that we can to become self-conscious agents of our own health and wellness.  Because lupus is a great impersonator, Black people, we’ve got to pay attention to a few different symptoms, issues like muscle and joint pain, fever, rashes, chest pain, hair loss, sun or light sensitivity, kidney problems and mouth sores. I realize that these are a number of different issues, and nobody wants to seem like a hypochondriac or being overly paranoid, but your health is important, and we must pay attention to all of these things.

Please don’t allow your doctor to brush you off because he or she has only 5 to10 minutes to spend in the room with you.  And whatever you do, do not allow well-intended family members and friends who have never been to medical school to diagnose you. You do know that having been sick doesn’t make you a doctor, right?

If you guys know anyone dealing with lupus, please have him/her reach out to us at and let’s see if they qualify to participate in this clinical trial. Remember we’re not just doing it for ourselves but for future generations.  I believe that God is responsible for our healing, but we are responsible for our health.