Monday, February 03, 2014

Talking Out Loud about HIV and AIDS in Arkansas

COP 24/7 Special: Black HIV/ AIDS Awareness Week 2014

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) was first observed in 1999. The Strategic Leadership Council of the National Black HIV AIDS Awareness Day Planning Committee plans and implements this observance.  The 2014 theme is “I Am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper. Fight HIV/AIDS!”. COP 24/7 has been forthright in our efforts to staying on point around the issues, challenges, breakthroughs and updates concerning the shifting landscape of this malady in Arkansas.

Although there have been three decades of tremendous resources expended ranging from the early
days of limited research to now a burgeoning infectious disease industrial complex, including future delivery systems centered around the Affordable Care Act, there still seems to be a distinct disparity in communities of color.

Arkansas statistics have been quoted by Arkansas Department of Health, State Health Director, Dr. Nathaniel Smith that "Over 5,000 people in Arkansas are living with HIV and hundreds more are diagnosed each year.” He further explained in 2013 prior to community training sessions on HIV and AIDS in Arkansas that “There is a great need for early detection and treatment not only for the health of individuals with HIV, but also to stop the spread of the disease,” said Smith. “The purpose of the training sessions is to make community members aware of the impact of HIV and AIDS in Arkansas and provide the tools they need to help stop the spread of the disease in their areas.”

Yet as these efforts come and go, there seems to be a continuing disconnect in the Black community in which citizen leaders and policy makers can't move forward with understanding that the continuing silence will certainly mean more deaths despite the infection being a chronic one. The embed below features a 2006 ABC report which addressed the then and now, out of control nature of infection rates across the nation. Even though we are now in the age of treatment cascades, care continuum's and 4th Generation Testing, we must begin to further question Arkansas' ability to create the high impact  prevention that has been outlined by the CDC as central to the endgame of HIV and AIDS. What about the fact that Arkansas HIV/AIDS funding has ebbed and flowed on federal funding for years without much question nor much effort to capture other additional resources or revenues.

Amazing as it would seem, much of the information highlighted in this piece, still has relevance still to this day. The question is why? It is no secret that Black on Black crime has taken center stage, not to mention a plethora of other social concerns such as unemployment, affordable housing and economic parity. Meanwhile newly infected young gay Black men 13-24 continue to languish in the states patchwork system that can be a nightmarish navigation even before dropping one ounce of medication.

However, it is imperative that Black community leaders and policy makers not only raise hand over fist dollars for child obesity but not be uncomfortable with using their considerable networks to re-address stigma, homophobia, and how they can assist with raising awareness on all levels. All this week COP 24/7 will be exploring many questions, rationales and resistance to dealing with HIV and AIDS in the Black Community. Stay with us all week. We encourage your comments, observations and dialog.


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