AIDS, Sexual Politics and the Untold War against Black Women
As we enter the 21st century, AIDS has not only reached epidemic proportions but has become a social crisis having a significant effect on the entire fabric of the African American community. When the first case of HIV was documented, the African American community dismissed the disease as an anomaly that only affected white gay men, intravenous drug users and Haitians. According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans make up roughly 12 percent of the nation's population, yet they account for 54 percent of all new HIV infections. Dr. David Satcher, the Surgeon General of the United States, states that there are 33.4 million HIV-infected people around the world, and 665,000 in the United States. It is estimated that 50 percent of all new HIV infections in the United States are among people under 25, and the majority of these young people are infected sexually. Nearly half (44 percent) of the HIV infections in the age group 13 to 24 were reported among young females and over half (63 percent) were among African Americans.
In 2000, 38% of women reported with AIDS were infected through heterosexual exposure to HIV; injection drug use accounted for 25% of cases. Among African American men reported with AIDS, men who have sex with men (MSM) represent the largest proportion (37%) of reported cases since the epidemic began. A CDC health survey of young African-American men who have sex with other men found that most who tested positive for HIV had no idea they were infected. Many of these men also know as "down low" brothers are then having unprotected sex with women and in turn infecting them. Studies show that African American women and women of color are less inclined to insist that partners use condoms. "The two biggest reasons why people are not getting tested is because they either don't perceive themselves at risk or don't want to find out they are HIV positive, CDC researcher Dr. Patricia Fleming said. "So it remains a tremendous barrier to overcome to promote increased testing."Gabrielle Tunnage, a community-team leader for REACH 2010 in South Florida, said of the local African American community: "We live in denial. We don't read. We don't ask the right questions of the right people, like our significant others, and misinformation is killing us."
Other reasons for the high percentage of Black women infected correlate with disparity -- economic, social, political and cultural. These issues run deep and are not easily remedied. For example, minorities use public health facilities at higher rates because many lack private health insurance. But the stigma surrounding public health clinics keeps many people from obtaining HIV testing and treatment. Gina Albritton, a service coordinator at R.E.A.C.H, a service organization in St. Louis, MO, said her Black clients juggle multiple problems, which can complicate HIV/AIDS care. "They don't come in with just one issue -- it's not just HIV," she said. "It's going to be no job, no income, no health care, homelessness, substance abuse." "This disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on the African-American community is a critical element in improving the nation's public health, and cause for concern on the part of all Americans," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson in a written statement, quoted from an article from PlanetOut.com (February 2002).
By incorporating the voices of people infected and/or affected by AIDS, this video hopes to place theses issues in a context that Black women experience in relation to their sexual behavior and choices.