Tuesday, February 23, 2016

CDC: Half of Gay Black Men Will Get HIV; Where Are the Black Churches?

click image to enlarge

One of the subjects of my frequent venting episodes is the crisis going on in the black community with HIV infection and the fact that - at least in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia - the black churches and pastors are an obstacle to remedying the tragic situation.  Now, a recently released study by the Center for Disease Control ("CDC") that helps to quantify just how bad the crisis is in fact. As the image above shows, black men who have sex with other men have a 1 in 2 chance of contracting HIV/AIDS.    White gay men in contrast have a 1 in 11 chance of contracting HIV/AIDS.  But the problem is not limited to black men.  The same study found that black women have a 1 in 48 chance of contracting HIV/AIDS while among white women, the chance is 1 in 880.  Why the huge disparity?  In my view, it is simple.  The black community overall - and black churches and pastors in particular - remains extremely homophobic.  The result is men "on the down low" who secretly have sex with other men, often without engaging in safe sex practices, and those who should be tested failing to do so because of their fear of being discovered and the stigma that attaches in that community.  The other find?  That the risk of HIV/AIDS contraction is highest in the Bible Belt states.   Here are some study summary highlights:

A CDC study released in February 2016 provides the first-ever comprehensive national estimates of the lifetime risk of an HIV diagnosis for several key populations at risk and in every state. Overall, the likelihood that an American will be diagnosed with HIV at any point during his or her life is now 1 in 99, an improvement from a previous study using 2004-2005 data that reported lifetime risk at 1 in 78. Despite overall progress, this study reveals stark disparities by race, risk group and geography.

By Race/Ethnicity, African Americans Are at Greatest Risk: While studies have shown that African Americans do not engage in riskier sexual behavior compared to Americans of other races/ethnicities, African American men overall are almost 7 times more likely than white men to be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes. The disparity among women is even greater: 1 in 48 African American women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes, compared with 1 in 227 Hispanic women and 1 in 880 white women. Reasons for this higher lifetime risk include higher prevalence within the community, which poses an increased risk of infection with each sexual encounter; lack of access to healthcare; poverty; and stigma.

Lifetime Risk Is Higher for People in the Southern United States: People living in the South are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV over the course of their life than people in other parts of the country. States where risk is greatest include Maryland (1 in 49), Georgia (1 in 51), Florida (1 in 54), and Louisiana (1 in 56).

Bigotry and the embrace of religious based ignorance imposes a real harm on the lives of American citizens.  Sadly, the far right Christofascists care little or nothing about black citizens and, as some recent posts have indicated, many of them are racists who long for the days of Segregation and the Jim Crow laws. 

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