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Fighting AIDS in black community requires educating our young

Published: Sat, August 4, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

One of my best friends died from complications of AIDS in San Diego, Calif., three years ago. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1992, and died at 57 in June 2009.

He spent his remaining years trying to educate the public about the disease and searching for a cure.

I wondered how the battle was faring against Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and the virus that leads to the disease, especially within the black community.

A recent email from the Black AIDS Institute was alarming, and I wanted to share some of the information with you to let you know the battle to end AIDS is far from over, despite years of research and billions of dollars dedicated to ending this plague.

According to its website — www.blackaids.org — the Black AIDS Institute, based in Los Angeles, was founded in May 1999, and it claims to be the only national HIV/AIDS think tank in the U.S. focused exclusively on black people.

Among its financial- resource partners are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the website says.

Its mission is to stop the AIDS pandemic in black communities by engaging and mobilizing black institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people under age 30 represent about four of every 10 new HIV infections each year.

Also, at the AIDS International Conference in Washington, D.C., last week, attendees learned that AIDS is graying.

By the end of the decade, the government estimates, more than half of Americans living with HIV will be older than 50. Even in developing countries, more people with the AIDS virus are surviving to middle age and beyond, according to an Associated Press story.

“But nowhere is the [AIDS] epidemic more virulent and voracious than in young black men who have sex with men, among whom the number of HIV infections increased 48 percent from 2006 through 2009,” according to the institute. The institute used CDC stats that ended in 2009, the last year for such a study.

“This growth has been exacerbated by the failure to provide adequate information to young people about their sexual health,” the institute’s email says.

“We should be ashamed of this failure to protect young people from the epidemic of HIV/AIDS,” Phill Wilson, the institute’s president and CEO, said in that same email. “We need massive investments in community education, in HIV science and treatment literacy programs and in peer patient navigation services that link individuals to the care they need — and we need to act on our convictions.”

The institute proposes these steps to reduce the devastating toll HIV/AIDS is having in the black community:

Increase access to sex education, with appropriate lessons on sexual health.

Insist that public schools teach students about safe sex, and proactively provide access to condoms and all appropriate forms of prevention and treatment.

Introduce HIV/AIDS testing to teenagers, reminding them to visit a primary-care physician regularly and to ask to be tested for HIV.

Increase the focus on pregnant young women, to reduce the number of children born with HIV/AIDS, as well as their partners. The virus can occur during pregnancy, and without treatment, around 15 percent to 30 percent of babies born to HIV- infected women will become infected with HIV during pregnancy and delivery.

Nicole Ware-Winford is the disease-intervention specialist with the Youngstown City Health Department who handles HIV cases for Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson counties. Trumbull cases are handled by the Akron Health Department, she said.

She told me the city health department offers HIV/AIDS testing from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays at the department’s headquarters at Oakhill Renaissance Place, 345 Oak Hill Ave.

There is no charge for HIV/AIDS testing, and it can be done confidentially or anonymously, she added. There is a $20 fee to test for other sexually transmitted diseases.

“If a person can’t make it those days, testing can be set up by appointment,” she said. The department offers pre- and post-test counseling and distributes free condoms. To set up an appointment, call 330-743-3333, ext. 241.

Ware-Winford says the two most important things a person can do to reduce his or her risk of getting AIDS is to limit partners and use condoms every time when engaging in sexual activity.

Teen Straight Talk, 1393 Youngstown-Kingsville Road, Vienna, also touts abstinence as an effective lifestyle choice and another way to combat STDs. To find out more, go to the organization’s website at www.teenstraighttalk.com, or call at 330-539-6040.

“We have achieved reductions in the rate of infections among newborn children and older people,” Wilson writes in his email. “Now, it is our responsibility to take care of our future and to act on behalf of young people who need access to information, prevention, and treatment to rid HIV from our future generations once and for all.”

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. You can contact him at ebrown@vindy.com.


1tnmartin(522 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Education is not the problem. Morality, or the lack of it, is the problem. Having sex ONLY with your husband or wife and refraining from use of injected illegal drugs, reduces one's risk to about zero.
And hiding homosexual anal sex behind the cloak of "men having sex with men", or MSM as the AIDS/HIV clinics list it, is cowardice and little more. End the bed-hopping and the problem will largely vanish.
And you know it. Why could you not say so?

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2excel(1302 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

The sexual revolution is upon us and morality is being redefined. Those charting new territory have no desire for society to dictate their wishes upon them. Do we even have any right to force any change upon them? It is their body and they are free to do as they please with it.

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3tnmartin(522 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

By what stretch of fantasy are the rest of us expected to pay for their bad behaviors? And it is not a victimless issue either. Friend of mine works in an AIDS/HIV clinic far from here. They have a block of time set apart every week for CHILDREN with, too often, full AIDS. Gotten from mother in utero. Tell me about their sexual freedom, do.
If you must jump off a bridge, have at it. Don't expect us to approve, or to finance your personal idiocy. Immorality has consequences.

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4southsidedave(5199 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Why does this article have to be titled Fighting AIDS in the black community? Education of all people is required to successfully combat the spread of this disease...and HIV causes AIDS, not AIDS causing HIV.

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5teachworldtosing(4 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I am glad the writer has brought this subject to the fore, because aids among black women is at an alltime high. They get it from men on the down low.
For a novel solution, why not urge the churches not to sweep this dirty laundry under the rug but preach against immorality of all kind, not just homosexuality? Where are you Jesse Jackson? What are you doing Al Sharpton?

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6jeepers(127 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

There are so many facets to this difficult public health crisis one doesn't know where to begin to inform the younger generations. As a Registered Nurse working in a public hospital in the 1980's I can remember the fear and panic the first few years. Before we knew anything about it, I can recall the FEAR and almost panic among some of us health care workers until information began to trickle out into the public. This diease was believed to be a certain death sentence once it was diagnosed. And it could already be inside of you if you had unprotected sex for years prior. PANIC is barely adequate to describe how many of us felt. Slowly facts were discovered and the panic began to calm down very slowly. Treatments were slowly discovered after many failures and millions in research. Education of the masses began on TV, in magazine, newspapers. I recall that no matter how much I thought I knew, there was always this huge fear that nobody knew enough. Millions were dying even with some treatments. Slowly the disease and its horrors began to fade from the front page. We grow 'bored' with any topic that doesn't affect us daily And terrorist attacks became our primary concern/fear. Thankfully thru diligent research// billions spent on meds for treating aids-we began to hear of famous personalities who were 'living with the aids virus' So here we are, 20 years later and the initial panic/fear are gone from the news headlines. We must re-invest in education again for the newer generations that don't know the dangers they face. Also, some believe the disease itself has morphed into a different virulence due to years of antibiotics and other treatments. Maybe it is time for some scary TV spotsto get the kids asking questions again. With the internet, the info is out there and easily located. And there is still the school system to help re-introduce the ravages of this life-killer. The churches should also help [ for those not in school] as they are a powerful force in the community and could be more trusted by those most affected.

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