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Black AIDS
Institute calls for 25 years of healing

Black AIDS
Institute calls for 25 years of healing

Black AIDS Institute marks the 25th anniversary of AIDS by calling for 25 years of healing

The Los Angeles-based Black AIDS Institute on Monday released the following statement to mark the 25th anniversary of the world's first reported AIDS cases:

Today marks the 25th anniversary of America's first AIDS diagnosis. As a nation and a community, we have come a long way in those 25 years of reeling under this virus's onslaught. The tragedy is that we still have far, far to go if we are to bring it under control.

In all sectors, we spent too many of the epidemic's early years caught off guard as HIV wormed its way into our lives. Scientists took years to identify the virus that caused the destruction first reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on June 5, 1981--and 15 years to develop medicine that gave people a chance to continue living. Political leaders were equally slow to react: It was 1987 before President Reagan bothered to address the nation about the carnage his Administration callously decided to ignore, and 1990 before Congress bothered to create a comprehensive system to make care and treatment affordable for the poorest Americans living with AIDS.

As for black America, we are arguably still working to truly mobilize a defense against the virus. For too many years, our community--our leaders, our institutions, and ourselves--chose to act like AIDS didn't matter to us. We did this even as we watched our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and children get sick and die. And we did this because of our fear--fear of the people most immediately impacted, fear of engaging yet another momentous struggle for survival, fear of losing focus on the struggles we were already engaged in.

Our fear killed too many black Americans, and continues to do so today.

African-Americans diagnosed with HIV are now eight times more likely to die from it than our white counterparts. And we are not short on such diagnoses in black America. Nearly half of the estimated 1 million Americans living with HIV are black; more than half of the estimated 40,000 people newly diagnosed with HIV each year are black. Yet, we are 13% of the population.

These simple facts are unacceptable for a disease we know how to both prevent and treat. But unless we take action--as individuals and as a community--the blackening of AIDS will grow more stark with each year.

In a new report (available online at announced at a press conference in New York City on Monday, the Black AIDS Institute urges such action. We call on the community to embrace proven HIV prevention strategies; to save lives by accessing available treatments ourselves and demanding our governments make those treatments truly accessible to all; and to finally discard the debilitating bigotry, stigma, and shame that fuels this epidemic's fire.

In many areas, we are beginning to see such steps taken. The Congressional Black Caucus and brave state legislators around the country have picked up the mantle, driving government to do something about AIDS in black neighborhoods. Many of our civil rights and community leaders have come to see AIDS as a crucial part of their broader work. Our churches and faith leaders are increasingly willing and able to minister not just to their dying church members but to their living communities about sexual health and healing.

As individuals, we must all join this building movement and work to save our own lives as well. The institute's founding motto is that AIDS affects our people, which makes it our problem, and demands we find our own solutions. Let's not wait until it's too late to do so. Let's make the next 25 years into a story about how we rose up and healed our communities--and ourselves. (The Advocate)

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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