Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Three Decades Later: HIV & AIDS Shifting and Trending

Trajectories and Torpedoes
HIV & AIDS in Arkansas' Black Community

HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect Black America. Currently, three in five Black Americans know someone living with or who has died from HIV/AIDS. Although we account for
less than 14% of the U.S. population, Black America represented 44% of all new HIV infections in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Men who have sex with Men (MSM) remain the group most heavily affected by HIV, while young Black MSM continue to account for more than half of new infections among young MSM.

Subsequently in Arkansas, according to HIV Surveillance Report 2012, there has been a cumulative total of 7,937 cases. As of December 31, 2012, the report cites that 42.9%  or 2260 cases represent as individuals living with HIV/ NA (non AIDS) in the Black community which is only 16% of the entire state population.

In the MSM ( Men who have sex with Men) category, the report shows 2625 cases which according to CDC estimates at least 48%  or 1260 of these new cases were found among Black gay men 13-44 whom represent approximately 1% of the population. This data support was sourced from the Arkansas eHARDS ( Enhanced HIV AIDS Reporting System/  and speaks to the ongoing dilemma of the impact of this chronic disease.

Meanwhile, the CDC reports a 21% decline in new HIV infections among women overall, however the new data shows that black women continue to be far more affected by HIV than women of other races/ethnicities. Of all the women living with HIV in the United States, approximately 66% are African American. Arkansas data breaks out along gender lines of "men and women" but does not specifically address ethic make up in the reported categories. Furthermore, the report does not include information concerning the trans person population although cites one person stating gender as "unknown."

With three decades passed in Arkansas there have been many bright moments of conferences, testing tours, gospel and comedy shows, awareness day programming and many other window dressing mash up's that have their purpose. Added to this mix has also been  Act 842 of 2007, which created the Arkansas HIV/AIDS Minority Task Force which produced a report citing conditions and practical solutions that was not funded.

Currently the group continues its monthly meetings and other activities that have resulted in marginal outcomes. Elected Black leadership has ebbed and flowed in their response to HIV and AIDS among their constituents. There has been no concerted effort to create legislation or address deficiencies in response to current conditions. Much of this neglect can be attributed to complacency and further necessary civic responsibility education.

Over the years we've had numerous other community assessments and the noted 2010 Harvard Law and Policy Clinic analysis entitled State Healthcare Access Research Project which took a comprehensive look at the states systems across the board. Yet, today much of that reports recommendations have all but been ignored or unimplemented as suggested.

Most glaring of those recommendations was creating a Consumer Office which was to act a liaison between the agency and the community. Another being revising cumbersome state contracting rules which can be vexing as well as obstructive to any community based organization attempting to fulfill their contractual expectations. 

This snapshot is not complete, but begs the questions that if the rest of world is talking about the end game of HIV and AIDS, it seems that Black communities across  Arkansas need to take a stark look at understanding its role in being in "the game" to end HIV and AIDS. Its inexcusable that more young individuals continue to become infected while many throughout the community have decided to take a position that they are not affected by this health dilemma. This is about "us healing us," and not waiting for another meager patronizing attempt to stem this "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" genocide.  Ask yourself, "what you going to do about it?"

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