A new report from the Black AIDS Institute - a national HIV-AIDS think tank that focuses on African Americans - contains grim findings. Having served on the local Ryan White Committee, I am not shocked by the magnitude of the findings which reflect what has been witnessed in the Hampton Roads area: AIDS in America is becoming a black disease. And the statistics are horrifying. HIV-AIDS is affecting black gay men in the United States on a scale unseen among any other group in the developed world. In some US cities, 50% of black men who have sex with other men are HIV positive. HIV prevalence among such men is twice as high than among their white counterparts. They are also far less likely to be alive three years after being diagnosed with AIDS than white or Latino gays and bisexuals. The report in PDF format can be found here. Many of the reasons for the grim picture are not surprising: poverty, lack of access to health care, the attitude in many state governments - certainly in Virginia's - that those with HIV-AIDS are garbage to be disposed of so it doesn't matter if they die. Indeed, one of the three worst cities for blacks with HIV-AIDS is Richmond, Virginia pictured above:
Richmond shares many characteristics of Gary and Memphis—below-average access to federal HIV grants, below-average Medicaid spending for HIV, and exclusion of single, childless adults from Medicaid. HIV-positive Black MSM in Richmond are further disadvantaged by the state’s ADAP. As of June 21, 2012, nearly 600 people living with HIV in Virginia had been placed on a waiting list for ADAP services. Indeed, Virginia alone accounted for 28% of all people nationwide on ADAP waiting lists in June 2012.
Some of the other grim findings:
Whereas more than two-thirds of new infections among white MSM occur in men in their 30s and 40s, a majority of newly infected Black MSM are ages 13-29. Due to exceptionally high rates of new infections among young Black MSM, many Black MSM enter adulthood already infected with HIV. Among 13-24-year-olds, Black men are nearly 14 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than white men, with MSM accounting for more than 90% of new diagnoses among young males. Although Black people account for a mere 9% of all MSM in the U.S., Blacks comprise more than 62% of new diagnoses among young MSM in 2008. Due to a surge in new infections among Black MSM, the disparity in HIV diagnosis rates among Black and white males increased by 257% from 2005 to 2008.
The report does a lot of assigning of blame. Sadly, one leading problem goes largely unmentioned: the rampant homophobia in the black community and the role that black pastors play in keeping homophobia alive. In one area of Norfolk several churches located in close proximity to some of the hardest hit areas continue to rant against gays and depict HIV-AIDS as Gods punishment to gays. Indeed, some of these pastors can be relied upon to act like trained chimpanzees (yes, this is a harsh statement, but sadly accurate) at the direction of the lily white racist leaning leaders of The Family Foundation in Richmond. The Family Foundation is the number one anti-gay hate organization in Virginia and an examination of its leadership demonstrates that most are the descendants of segregationist.
It drives me to distraction to see these black pastors doing the bidding of those who would happily see blacks disappear from society or at least remain greatly subjugated. The situation underscores why knowing accurate history and not being duped by the cynical use of religious belief to work against one's community's best interests is so critical. These black pastors literally are doing the bidding of those who hate blacks almost as much as gays and they are too foolish to realize it.