African-Americans suffer with HIV and AIDS at wildly disproportionate rates in America today. Medical professionals are calling it an epidemic, and that’s not hyperbole: Of the 1.1 million people with HIV in the United States, 545,000 are Black. Blacks make up only about 13 percent of the U.S. population, and yet they account for nearly half of all new HIV infections [PDF]. AIDS is also the leading cause of death for African-American women age 25 to 34.
In a word, the AIDS situation in America’s Black community is tragic, and it needs to be addressed quickly. President Obama has already enacted policy to try and fight AIDS among Blacks, but Black organizations are taking it upon themselves to join in the fight. Today, a new coalition of media heads and Black colleges are teaming up to help defeat AIDS.
Fifty publishers of Black newspapers in the South, aware of the power they have to inform readers, have decided to try and take AIDS head on. The South is home to 41 percent of people with AIDS in America, so it makes sense for the regional publications to lead the campaign, which they decided upon at their annual meeting last week. Reports the Charlotte Post:
The Southeast Region Publishers’ HIV/AIDS Awareness Conference: Caring for Communities of Color brought together more than 80 Black college students and their advisers, HIV/AIDS scientists, faculty, clergy and members of the Black Press to heighten awareness and begin a dialogue around a disease that’s now in its 30th year.
Ultimately the hope is that the publishers can convince students and organizations at the Black schools to warn students about the risks of contracting HIV and the benefits of safer sex. Education is often the key to avoiding HIV/AIDS, and it’s a task almost perfectly suited for college.
It’s important for the president to continue programs at the federal level designed to beat back the scourge of AIDS. But it’s also incumbent upon community leaders to try to protect their people. It’s encouraging to see the publishers and the students accepting some responsibility for the good of everyone.
(Photo: Jacky Naegelen / Reuters)