Tuesday, April 03, 2007

AIDS 26: Lives lost and lessons still being learned

The 2007 Arkansas Legislature will end it's weaving and wobbling session this week and not a moment too soon as far as I'm concerned. These elected officials have proposed bills that have ranged from the insipid to the bombastic, yet with all these high jinxs the session did result in some noteworthy results. Senate Bill 959, Shawn Womack's crusade to usurp the Arkansas Supreme Court in an attempt to stave off those whom he deemed unfit to be foster parents, lost traction and ultimately failed due to parliamentary shadow boxing in the Judiciary committee. Without a "second" or any vocal support caused the measure to fade to black. However, I don't beleive this is the last we will hear from those who want to "save the children," from those dedicated folks who want to provide stability and most of all, love. Meanwhile, HB 2615, now entitled Act 842, establishing a Minority AIDS Task Force has been sent to the Gov's desk for signature. Spearheaded by Willie Hardy ( Dist. 5) and supported by a cross section of lawmakers, the bill sailed through without much brouhaha or scrunity. On the surface this creation has merits, goals and lofty ideas in continuing addressing the HIV/ AIDS dilemma in Arkansas's minority community and beyond. In case any of those 19 appointed individuals need a refresher or perhaps a clear picture of what's really going on. I've included a stark global assessment from BlackAIDS.org, and wanted to note state statistics according to the ADHHS, from 1983-2004 Arkansas has had 6040 cases of which 42% or 1580 have died. Do we have room for more lives lost and lessons still being learned? I think not....stay tuned.

CDC Analysis states African Americans highest rate of HIV infections

African Americans are still the racial group mostly affected by HIV/AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of the estimated 184,991 adult and adolescent HIV infections diagnosed during 2001--2005, more than 51 percent occurred among blacks than among all other racial/ethnic populations combined. An estimated 62 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses were among persons aged 25-44 years; in this age group, blacks accounted for 48 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses.
“We have rates of HIV/AIDS among blacks in some American cities that are as high as in some countries in Africa,” said Dr. Robert Janssen, director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at CDC in Atlanta. ”When you look at New York City and Washington, D.C., the rates among blacks are higher than Ghana, Senegal and Chad.”
The rate of prevalence for blacks in Washington, D.C., is 3 percent, based on the number of AIDS cases being reported. However, Janssen said the total rate is probably closer to 4.5 percent, if you add the HIV infections, which the district is currently not reporting.
While in New York, according to a New York Times article, about 50 percent of AIDS-related deaths in the city occur among black women, who account for 25 percent of the city's population. In addition, black women account for 34 percent of the city's new AIDS cases -- an increase from 12 percent twenty years ago -- and approximately one in five black men ages 40 to 49 living in the city is HIV-positive, according to the Times.
The HIV prevalence rate for Senegal, the HIV/AIDS rate for people 15-49 years olds us stable at .9 percent; 2.3 percent in Ghana and 4.8 in Chad. While in South Africa, the prevalence rate is 18.8 percent.
Janssen said there are probably several reasons for the increase, including more testing.
“In many cases, a higher proportion of black people are being tested than any other racial group,” Janssen said. ”We are doing a better job of encouraging African Americans to tests. Every African American between 13-64 years old should know their status and take steps not to infect others.”
HIV is still the leading causing of death for African American women 25-34 years old. Among black men who sleep with men (MSM), the annual HIV/AIDS diagnosis black/white ratio to ratio (RR) of 6.9 was higher than the Hispanic/white RR of 3.1. Among females, the black/white RR was 20.5, and the Hispanic/white RR was 5.4.
“Research indicates that blacks’ sexual behavior is no different than those of whites,” Janssen said. “The most important factor in the increasing number of HIV cases in the African American community is the prevalence of HIV in the community. Racial groups tend to have sex with members of their own racial group. The mere fact that prevalence is higher among black people means that a black person having sex with another black person is more likely to bump into someone who is HIV infected than white people are.”

Sharon Egiebor is the project editor for BlackAIDS.org

No comments: