I recently read an article asking the question why was HIV/AIDS still an issue in the Black community and why is it, that Black women are still disproportionally impacted since we have all the tools to stop the spread of HIV? Women represent nearly 20% of new HIV infections, and more than 50% of women who contract the virus are Black.
I know you’ve all seen those commercials, running day and night, showing Black people barbecuing, laughing, playing on the beach enjoying sunsets together advertising how great life is for them and their partners. Suddenly, Black people have now become the poster children for HIV prevention. Why now?
Black people locally and globally have always been disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Now drug manufacturers, governmental agencies, well intended groups and organizations want to get the Black communities’ attention and hopefully the resources needed to address HIV which is good, because we damn sure never received the necessary funding, or support needed early-on during the HIV pandemic.
Our community was relegated (and in most cases still are) to using evidence-based prevention methods that clearly had little to no relevance or evidence of being effective in our community. Our community was framed as being homophobic, callous, and less caring, justifying their lack of support, denying us the opportunity to define, defend, design and develop culturally competent messaging, messengers and methods to address HIV/AIDS in our own Black and unique way. But I digress.
President Biden’s 2024 budget proposes $237 million for a federal Pre-exposure Prophylaxis,
(PrEP) program. For those of you that may not know what I’m talking about this is my evidence-based proof that we needed our own way of reaching and teaching our people around critical issues in our own special culturally competent and unique way, but once again I digress. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is a medication that your partner can take that will lessen the risk of them becoming HIV positive. PrEP is a highly effective method in preventing the spread of HIV when taken as prescribed, but it’s not a wonder drug, it works best when taken as prescribed in combination with common sense and personal responsibility.
Let me bring it closer to home. I take Amlodipine (for my blood pressure) which is very effective in helping me to not have a stroke, which is a fact! But here’s the truth. Amlodipine is great when taken as prescribed, but it’s more effective when combined with my own commonsense and personal responsibility, i.e. diet, exercise, stop smoking and drinking—you see, there’s no magic in Amlodipine, just as there’s no magic in PrEP.
PrEP can and will reduce your risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%, and it can also reduce the risk of getting HIV from injection drug use by at least 74%. Here’s where our commonsense and respect for self and others comes into play. PrEP helps to protect you from HIV not Gonorrhea, Genital Herpes, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Mycoplasma genitalium (Mgen) Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and Syphilis Trichomoniasis. PrEP only protects us against HIV; condom use, personal responsibility and respect for others are still key in protecting yourself and others.
I’m optimistic that the Black community can and will benefit from the use of PrEP, I’m also clear that our community can and will only benefit if we are allowed to create our own messaging and messengers. We can’t allow outside forces to pit us against one another by comparing pain. And we as a community don’t need anyone or any outside organization to be our fiduciary of whatever part of that $237 million that will be given to address PrEp in our community. The question for me is will the distribution of that $237 million follow those in greatest needs, or will we go back to business as usual and once again fall victim to the political inequities in health care? We will see Mr. President.
My organization, I Choose Life Foundation in partnership with Jumo Health, have launched a national movement entitled, No Longer Left Behind: “We are each Other’s Medicine”. This is a national movement, not an episodic moment, and we are committed to reaching, educating, and recruiting members of the Black community to become engaged and involved in cutting edge treatment, care, prevention, clinical trials, research, and science. I lost five family members, within fourteen days to Covid-19 and more friends than I care to remember. As a people and a community, we can no longer be left behind when it comes to cutting-edge treatment, care, research and clinical trials. It’s difficult at best to join a trial or receive a treatment you know nothing about. How can I come to a party when I have never received an invitation, and I don’t know the host? We will show up; we just need the date, time, place, and knowledge of the host.
I Choose Life Foundation and Jumo Health have partnered with Black Newspapers, Black radio, community-based organizations, faith institutions, social and civic institutions, researchers and scientists, barbers and beauticians and elected officials all over this country to ensure that the Black community will no longer be left behind! Our participation in clinical trials and different treatment modalities is crucial for future generations to come, and that’s why we say, ‘we ARE each other’s medicine’.
For more information about life saving therapies, clinical trials, treatments and research in your area or community or if you would like to become a partner, don’t be left behind, contact us at www.ichoose-life.com.