HIV/AIDS: More African Americans Fear Disease
African Americans are twice as worried about becoming infected with HIV than all Americans combined, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released this week in conjunction with a Harvard University conference. About half of all blacks surveyed know someone who has HIV or AIDS or has died from AIDS, compared with a third of all Americans who say the same. AIDS is the nation's leading health concern according to 52% of blacks, compared with 38% of all Americans. The AP/Boston Herald reports that "[w]hen the AIDS epidemic began more than a decade ago, it mostly infected gay, white men. Yet as AIDS cases among whites have been steadily dropping, the number of blacks and Hispanics with the disease has been rising at a disproportionate rate" (3/18).
More Deaths Than Homicide
Even though African Americans make up only 12% of the U.S. population, they account for 43% of all new AIDS cases. And African American men represent 39% of new cases among all men, an annual incidence rate six times that of white men. In fact, among African-American men aged 25 to 44, AIDS fatalities outpace homicide deaths (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 3/17). The Kaiser survey also showed that African Americans "believe that the government, schools and churches aren't doing enough to stem the tide of the deadly epidemic," the Ft. Worth Star Telegram reports (Rodrigues, 3/19). The survey questioned 811 African-American adults between September 19 and October 26; the margin of sampling error is plus/minus 4% (release, 3/17).
Community Leaders Unite
The "grim national statistics presented" at the Harvard conference "prompted meeting organizers to call upon black leaders and government officials to do much more to stem the spread of the virus," the Boston Globe reports (Kong, 3/18). "In my opinion, this survey suggests a disturbing need for leadership within the African-American community about an epidemic which is sixteen times more likely to strike its women and six times more likely to strike its men," said Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Dubois Institute and chair of Afro-American studies at Harvard (release, 3/17). Attending the Harvard conference was Barbara Gomes Beach, executive director of Boston's Multicultural AIDS Coalition, who agreed "with the need to highlight the statistics" but "criticized the organizers for not reaching out to the local community more, both for the conference and in the fight against AIDS." She said, "AIDS is not a class issue. I certainly would invite all of those gentlemen to partner with local community agencies who are here on the front lines doing that kind of work. We certainly need that kind of exposure to help us" (Boston Globe, 3/18).