About AIDS

For black Americans, the time is now!

More than half of new HIV cases reported in the U.S. each year are among African-Americans, even though they represent only 13% of the general population; and about two-thirds of all women being diagnosed with AIDS today are black. This is one thrust of a new report, "The Time Is Now!," from the Black AIDS Institute and coinciding with Black History Month.

Such disproportion has been reported for years. As before, BAI predictably calls for more congressional funding for HIV/AIDS care and prevention, more outreach to the black community, more needle exchange programs, etc. Certainly, those worthy goals should be demanded. In its 80 pages, however, the report does not call for more disease prevention from African-Americans themselves – more responsible decision-making, more frank dealing with health and societal challenges, more community-based leadership, more acceptance of variations in human sexuality.

America's gradual retreat from essential government services, such as health care for its less-advantaged citizens, borders on blasphemy for many of us. And obviously, this withdrawal falls disparately on minorities – and on people with HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, in the present political environment, the situation is unlikely to change: government increasingly will not do more and may well do less.

HIV is exploding among black Americans, but no superhero is streaking from D.C. to save the day. Challenging as it may be, that likely will fall to the community itself.

The Black AIDS Institute's slogan is "Our People, Our Problem, Our Solution." The report's title conveys a crucial message: The Time Is Now. For the sake of African-Americans – and all America – let's hope that implied challenge is met.

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