Saturday, June 22, 2024

We’re all ‘In This Together’

December 4, 2007 by  
Filed under Health

( According to the World Health Organization, more than 33 million people are now living with HIV. So far this year (2007), over two and a half million people have become infected with the virus. Nearly half of those infected will die within 10 years of contracting HIV and before their 35th birthday.

According to the Louisiana Department of Public Health, less than two years ago Louisiana ranked 6th-highest in AIDS case rates in the nation. The Baton Rouge and New Orleans metro areas ranked 6th and 7th respectively in AIDS case rates among the largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

In the United States alone, it is estimated that more than 1,000,000 people are currently living with HIV. Additionally, it is estimated that one out of every four people living with HIV does not know that they are infected.

Since the virus was first identified in the United States back in 1981, over half a million Americans have died of AIDS. Close your eyes for a moment and picture yourself waking up tomorrow only to find out that every man, woman and child living in Orleans, St. Tammany, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James and Plaquemines parishes has vanished. Just maybe you will understand the deadly effect HIV/AIDS has had on the United States.

From a global perspective, again close your eyes and picture yourself waking up again tomorrow to find that everyone in the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Kansas are all gone -over 25,000,000 people. Maybe, just maybe, you will begin to understand the human toll of the AIDS pandemic.

And what is the face of AIDS? According to Michael Hickerson, the founder and Executive Director of “In this Together,” a highly successful HIV/AIDS case management agency, “too many people still stigmatize the disease. It’s a gay man’s disease, or it’s a curse by God, and all too often, our African-American mothers and daughters, sisters and aunts are dying from a lack of knowledge. Most of my new clients these days are Black females.”

According to the Organization to AVERT AIDS & HIV, 44 percent (nearly half) of all those infected with HIV/AIDS in the United States are African Americans. While 59 percent of the men infected contracted AIDS from other men, 65 percent of the women infected contracted AIDS from heterosexual contact. In 2006, the number of new cases due to heterosexual contact grew by 42 percent.

According to a recent study, HIV/AIDS and Intimate Partner Violence,” women of color are particularly at risk for HIV. Between 2000 and 2003, HIV/ AIDS killed nearly 10,000 African-American women in the United States. It was the leading cause of death for African-American females aged 25 to 34 and the third-leading cause for those 35 to 44 years of age (CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2006). Among all women currently living with HIV/AIDS, an estimated 64 percent are African-American.

A few weeks ago, the CDC reported that last year a record 1 million cases of Chlamydia were recorded; additionally, cases of Gonorrhea and Syphilis had increased sharply. In light of these disheartening statistics, updated statistics on HIV/AIDS infections were expected to be released late last week.

According to Johnson, Gant, et al. (1992), even well-educated African-American college students who engage in risky sexual practices display the tendency to deny their vulnerability to HIV infection. When questioned as to the refusal of individuals to use safe sex practices knowing fully well the potential deadly consequences of their actions, Mr. Hickerson simply stated that, “people just don’t see AIDS as affecting them. It’s a stigma that kills. What they don’t get is that HIV doesn’t put a stamp on a person’s face saying ‘HIV’; and that’s how they get infected.”

The “Bossman” of St. Louis

Darnell “Bossman” McGee was an evil dude. In the late 1990s Darnell, dressed as smooth as he talked, rolled down the boulevard in his Lexus coup with rims. He seduced his victims, some a young as 14 and 15 years old, often with a McDonald’s “Happy Meal” and a new pair of sneakers. He made his claim to notoriety in 1997, when it came to light that he had knowingly (he was diagnosed in 1992 and was warned not to have unprotected sex), exposed 62 females to the AIDS virus and it was suspected that he had sexual relations with over 40 other unsuspecting females in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Within the year, over two-dozen primarily young, African-American females had tested positive for AIDS. Darnell would soon meet his end looking down the barrel of a gun.

People judge a book by its cover,” Mr. Hickerson continued to explain. “Don’t think that because it looks all healthy and the package looks good that the inside is all pretty too. You have to practice SAFE SEX, not sometimes, not when you feel like it, but until both you and your partner are tested and are in a committed relationship. You have to do it ALL THE TIME.”

Saturday, December 1, was World AIDS Day and the theme this year is “leadership.” This year’s campaign calls on all sectors of society – families, communities and civic organizations – to take the initiative and provide leadership on AIDS. People need not die of AIDS; AIDS is preventable. Until we take responsibility and realize that it’s not the other person’s disease, and that we are ALL “In This Together,” the color red will continue to bleed across the globe.

Written By Michael A. Radcliff

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