Dear President-Elect Obama:

Yesterday was World AIDS Day. As you begin your new administration, there is a two-fold question regarding HIV/AIDS that I must ask:

You have nominated Tom Daschle to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

What is going to be the Obama Administration policy on the administration of Federal HIV/AIDS dollars?

Please explain to me why, when the face of HIV/AIDS – in the United States – is a Black or Brown woman – the majority of Federal HIV/AIDS dollars go to organizations that DO NOT SERVE THAT POPULATION?

This seems to me to be a complete MISAPPROPRIATION OF FUNDS.

There are many things under which this ‘rainbow’ approach to government will be ok. If there is healthcare for all, Black folk will be included. If public education is improved, Black folk will be included. If the war is ended and the troops come home, Black folk will be included.

But, there are some issues that are Black specific, and need attention, and I don’t believe it’s overreaching to demand that a BLACK President, pay attention to this crisis. We gave you 95% of our vote; for that, it is expected that CERTAIN issues be dealt with accordingly.

This is a lecture about HIV/AIDS given by a JJP poster -Trumystique, who was gracious enough to post it in the comments.

A talk I gave last World AIDS day:

So just what is World AIDS Day? It is a day that began in 1988 to raise awareness about the global epidemic of HIV/AIDS. Today it is estimated that 40 million people worldwide and 1 million in this country- are infected by HIV/AIDS with many more worldwide being affected by this epidemic. You may just pause to think where you were in 1988? What were you doing, what music you were listening to in 1988? Did you know anything at all about this virus that would come to be the greatest public health emergency of our time?

Well most of us didn’t know anything about this virus. In 1980’s reports of a strange new disease among healthy young gay white men surfaced. These young men were stricken with Kaposi’s Sarcoma (a rare form of cancer seen among elderly). It was called Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID). Words have power and the initial naming of the disease created a false sense of HIV being “theirs” and not “our” disease. That sense of HIV not being our problem didn’t change even when the disease was renamed AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It still wasn’t our problem. And we felt safe that it wasn’t our problem. The news showed white men picketing and rallying for new medicines, it showed a sickly Ryan White speaking out about the virus that causes AIDS. We were safe – it wasn’t our problem.

The truth is that is was always our problem. Even in 1983 the Centers for Disease Control noted that African Americans made up 12% of the population and 26% of HIV/AIDS cases. But a lot of us still closed our eyes and stopped up our ears. Today, the CDC says that we make up HALF of all HIV/AIDS cases. The reasons for the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on African Americans are numerous and complex — poverty, lack of access to quality health care and information, taboos about discussing issues relating to sex/sexuality, drug use and addiction.

Today, we can’t close our eyes and hearts anymore. We are 25 years into the AIDS epidemic. We can no longer ignore that HIV is a part of our community. Look around you HIV is infecting and affecting brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters, sons and daughters who look just like you. HIV/AIDS has a face in about every family in Black America.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the facts:
1 73% of infants infected with HIV are black
2 61% of young people under age 25 infected with HIV are black
3 67 % —- 2 out of 3 of women diagnosed with HIV are black women
4 42% of men diagnosed with HIV are black men
5 50% of people over age 50 diagnosed with HIV are black

In every category, children, women, men, the elderly–black people are being affected by HIV/AIDS. Our health as a black nation is in a state of emergency. This emergency has been going for a long time. Its like me and my kitchen. You see I like to cook and live in a typical NYC apartment. Except my landlord put in this fire alarm and everytime I cook it goes off. Everytime it goes off has the sharp wail and says FIRE FIRE. And I have to turn it off. That is exactly how we have been with HIV. We havent wanted to listen or see or talk about what is going on.

Though there has been an alarm going off we havent listened. I have worked in city hospitals in Boston. And I have seen what HIV is doing to our community. I have seen a young girl who at 15 years old has HIV, a young mother of 3 with HIV, I have seen the older man living on the street who has HIV, I have seen a handsome put together man in his 40s with HIV. These people are like me and you and they all have the virus that causes AIDS.

For many people a recent wake up call was the ABC special on HIV in the black community called Out of Control:AIDS in Black America. Many people in our community stood up and paid attention when network TV said we have a problem in black America. When asked what they were doing about HIV in our community Jesse Jackson and TD Jakes didnt have an answer. Others in the church who were interviewed like Rev Calvin Butts Jr said that if the numbers keep going up its clear we havent done enough.

One way that people use to distance themselves from the reality is to say that “Well people wouldn’t be affected if they weren’t doing wrong”. So all our black sisters are just doing wrong and sleeping around? When 2 out every 3 women being diagnosed with HIV I don’t think that’s the answer. We know that the majority of black women about 75% are infected with HIV by having sex with a male partner. And we cant blame black men. We cant be one more group to demonize our black brothers because God knows they are so many people standing in line to hate on black men. But the fact is that we as women need to take control of our bodies and our lives. We can not be infected by HIV against our will. We choose not to use condoms, we choose to trust our lives and our bodies to some man telling you “ Don’t worry baby I’m clean”. That cant happen anymore. Black women must choose life and protect themselves.

I know there are people here who will still say sisters wouldn’t be infected without these black homosexuals infecting them. But this is about personal responsibility and selflove. We know that half of new cases of HIV cases in black men are due to men who have sex with men. Many of these men don’t consider themselves gay. Because they know to identify with being gay means you are not loved, you are denigrated . Our community tell us that being gay means being invisible and being an abomination. So these men can not love themselves enough to protect themselves. Because they hate themselves too and see HIV as a punishment from God.

HIV is not a punishment from God. HIV is not a sign of immorality or being unclean. Jesus welcomed and took care of the lepers. Would Jesus do any different for those affected by HIV? Love like Jesus. Love past your fear. Show compassion to those living with HIV. Love by educating yourself and others.

And to make sure we are all on the same page here. I want to go over some of the basics about HIV. Let start with

So just what is HIV?
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by a virus called Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV attacks the body’s immune system and makes it unable to fight off infections and diseases.

So how is HIV spread?
• Unprotected sex with an infected person i.e., vaginal, anal sex
• Sharing a needle with someone who is infected
• Babies that are born or breast fed by an infected mother
• Tainted blood supply

HIV is not spread:
• Touching, kissing, coughing, sneezing, tears or sweat
• Sharing food, drinks or utensils with an HIV positive person
• Touching toilet bowls or doorknobs used by a person with HIV
• Swimming, sharing clothing or towels
• Mosquitos
• Casual contact e.g., sitting next to or shaking hands with an HIV positive person.

Although HIV is 100% preventable, hundreds of persons from African American community become infected everyday.

How can HIV be prevented?

Sex-The only sure way to avoid becoming infected with HIV through sexual intercourse is to practice abstinence. However, many people of all ages are making the choice to have sex. It is very important that people who choose to have sex be aware of the risks and responsibilities they have to protect themselves. The use of latex condoms, when used correctly and consistently, has been shown to reduce HIV infection. Latex condoms are also effective against other sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

Needles-With regard to contracting HIV through injection drug use, the best way to prevent this is to not use drugs. If you do use needles or syringes, do not share them. To prevent the spread of HIV through drug use, needles and syringes must be disinfected with bleach every time they are used.

So now you have taken the first step towards self love and self preservation for yourself and for your community. So what else can you to stop HIV in the black community?

Start simple.
1. Know your status.
Get tested for HIV. Now that should be easier to do than ever before as doctors will routinely start offering HIV tests to all patients.

The most common tests currently available:
ELISA is a blood test that detects HIV antibodies.
Western Blot (immunoblot) is often used to confirm a positive ELISA test. OraSure® is currently the only FDA approved oral test. This product uses a device to collect oral fluids from inside the mouth. And you can get results in about half an hour.

2. Once you know your status you can take steps to take care of yourself. If you find out you are positive you can get into treatment early. These include

• Drugs that attack the virus called antiretroviral drugs that help infected persons live longer.

• Drugs are used to prevent the development of some HIV-related conditions like pneumonia

• Drugs to treat HIV-related cancers and infections.

If you find out you are negative you can take steps to protect yourself so you stay negative.

3. Show compassion to people living with HIV.
It seems this is simple but it is the most powerful way we have to reduce stigma. Reach out to people with HIV. Give hugs and touch hands. But most importantly in your speech and manner be nonjudgemental when speaking about HIV. The judgement, hate and derision focused on those with HIV is one of the reasons that so many people do not want to know or disclose their status. There is very real discrimination against those with HIV and it wont stop until we stand against this and show compassion. Act as if every time you are speaking about HIV you are talking about your sister, brother or cousin. Because in fact it is true. Every family in black America probably has someone affected by HIV.

So thats World AIDS Day for you. A day to commemorate the disease that is affecting all of us.


Please note this talk was oriented to people in the community and what they could do about HIV/AIDS. As a result there was no talk about the structural reasons ( poverty, lack of access to healthcare, education, gender/race/heterosexist discrimination) for the pattern of HIV in our community.

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