I have a commitment every year to acknowledge the continuing struggle of people around the world who are living with HIV/AIDS. This commitment stems from a recognition of the absence of attention that the issue receives in the Black religious community at large and the deadly impact that continued ignorance regarding the disease, how it is transmitted, and how it is treated, though not cured, has on our community especially.
I got a late start this year, as the date of the blog (as opposed to the ribbon) attests, but I refuse to miss completely the opportunity in this venue to reflect on AIDS, twenty years after the first World AIDS Day commemoration. Again this year, "Leadership" is the chosen theme for World AIDS day.
According to the CDC, around the world 33 million people and in the USA 1.1 million people live with HIV/AIDS. In the USA, 1 in 5 infected persons is unaware of the infection and thus is prone to spread the virus unwittingly. But most startling are the following statistics regarding the virus and women:
In 2004 (the most recent year for which data are available), HIV infection was
the leading cause of death for black women (including African American women) aged 25–34 years.
the 3rd leading cause of death for black women aged 35–44 years.
the 4th leading cause of death for black women aged 45–54 years.
the 4th leading cause of death for Hispanic women aged 35–44 years.
In the same year, HIV infection was the 5th leading cause of death among all women aged 35–44 years and the 6th leading cause of death among all women aged 25–34 years. The only diseases causing more deaths of women were cancer and heart disease. (from the CDC Factsheet on Women and HIV/AIDS)
Although we celebrate the advances in medical science which have greatly increased the life expectancy and quality of life for those who are infected with the HIV virus, this is no time for complacency. Too many, especially black women, people still die from the disease; too many people still have not been tested.
It is unconscionable that leaders of Black institutions, including houses of worship, politics, and the media devote so little attention to the continuing threat that HIV/AIDS presents for the health of Black people, especially women. Silence is deadly.