Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The AIDS Virus is Killing the African-American Community

I was reading an article in Newsweek this week and I was horrified to learn how the AIDS virus is ravaging the Black community. (Newsweek gives an overview of the AIDS epidemic in America here.) Numbers don't lie. The article tells us that:

African-Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population but account for an astounding 51 percent of new HIV diagnoses. Black men are diagnosed at more than seven times the rate of white men, black females at 20 times the rate of white women.

Did you see that figure about black women - we are getting AIDS at 20 TIMES the rate of white women. 20 TIMES. And, most heartbreaking of all, most black women get the disease during heterosexual sex with men.

The virus once referred to as "gay-related immunodeficiency disease" has become increasingly gender-blind, especially in the black community, where heterosexual transmission accounts for 25 percent of male infections and 78 percent of female infections.

And where are most of the black men getting the disease? From homosexual sex with another man.

That's scary. And it's outrageous. One of the men profiled in the story admitted to regularly having sex with both men and women. And, EVEN AFTER HE FOUND OUT HE HAD AIDS - HE STILL HAD UNPROTECTED SEX. And did not bother to inform his sex partners that he had the virus.

Ladies - that could be someone you are dating. Or someone you might consider dating. The article made it clear that it was not only 'promiscuous' women who got the virus from their partner - one woman was married and the another had been with very few men. But it just takes one time. One time with one person without protection. Just one time.

And the scariest part of all is that you can't even assume your partner will know if he or she even has the virus. The article uncovered the fact that testing among black men is low. A study of 2000 bisexual men discovered that half of these men tested positive for AIDS and TWO-THIRDS OF THEM DIDN'T EVEN KNOW THEY HAD THE DISEASE!!!

All I can say is, if you are having sex, protect yourself. Get tested for AIDS. And if you are contemplating marrying or becoming engaged in a long-term relationship, have your partner test himself or herself as well.

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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read this same article and it is quite alarming. I do have one question to pose -- what are your thoughts about the Black Church becoming actively involved in our communities to help stop the spread of this disease? Our churches condone the acts of homosexuality, promiscuous sex, premarital sex, etc. but they are not helping the community as much as they are condoning the community. If the church opened its doors more often, instead of keeping them closed, they could save a lot more people -- not just spiritually but physically as well.

I think churches should start offering classes on AIDS/HIV Prevention, The Risks/Consequences of Pre-marital Sex, or Teen Pregnancy to name just a few. These classes will offer open and honest dialogue among church members, family and peers. But hey, those are just my thoughts.... the church leaders have to decide how they best want to save the world or our community...

Anonymous said...

I misused the word condone, I meant not condone or forbid.... sorry for the mishap...

EmmyElle said...

I worked in a small southern community as an HIV/AIDS Prevention Educator. When I approached a church about teaching a prevention class I was plain out told "NO" because teaching about the prevention of a Sexual Transmitted Disease is condoning the act of sex. The church is one of the best places for this dialogue because it reaches the masses. Because congregations such as the one previously discussed church-goers, especially young people, sneak around uninformed and unprotected.

BET had a documentary on Saturday about "Brothers on the Down Low". The program went on to discuss rape and consensual sex inside the prison system. Some of the incarcerated men stated because the prison system refuses to distribute condoms they have to use latex gloves, potato chip bags(which I imagine causes cuts), or no protection at all. This behavior also spreads disease within the prison system. These men get out and resume unprotected relationships with their girlfriends, wives or whomever and the disease spreads once again.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you Emmyelle. I think the church is the best place (next to home) to have this type of dialogue. There are so many young people (and old) who are misinformed, sneaking around, ashamed, or are just turning the other cheek so the church won't condemn them, outcast them, or use them as an example of their sins of premarital sex, homosexuality, etc. There are so many people in the church who would love to talk about this but are afraid because of what the church may say or do to them. That is why there are so many of our brothers and sisters in the church who are dying right before our eyes.... yet the church continues to keep its doors closed to the community.

ms mimi the mocha soulchild said...

It is not uncommon for infected people to know they are infected, be in denial, and continue to have unprotected sex with others. They don't want to be seen as "sick people" or give up the intimacy that comes with sexual contact.
I think as a community we need to start having a real frank discussion about our health.

I have friends who have slept with infected people, knowing they were infected, unprotected. I've even given them condoms. We all know people, or may be people who have had pregnancy scares, AIDS scares. A bad decision unfortunately these days could cost you your life.

The bible cautions us about premarital sex. No getting around that, however, I think it is important for all the facts to be out there about contraceptives, and condoms so that people know what options they have. We should be educating people as a church on the risk factors for HIV/AIDS. My church partners with a local clinic and provides anonymous testing.

However, I think that that is crisis intervention. The root cause would be to find out why people are having unprotected sex, and having extramarital sex.

When you do not protect yourself from disease, or continually use sex to replace something in your life, you are devaluing who you are, and who God made you to be.

If we loved more as a church, listened more, and judged less, I think we would be able to see the real problems here.

sonya said...

Thank you all for your insightful comments. I definitely think the church should be more involved in addressing the AIDS crisis in our community. To be honest, our church has partnered with others in our community and we've had several worship services to raise awareness, but I never realized the extent of the crisis until I read this article. And I believe there are a lot of people like me - aware, but only peripherally. How powerful it would be to have the statistics on the Jumbotron at our respective churches detailing just how many of us are becoming infected by this virus.

Previous to reading this article, I had a tendency to think of AIDS as something someone else gets or experiences. But I realize now that the people being infected are me - they are women who are trusting in a man to tell them the truth. And that, even more disturbing, people aren't even getting tested to see if they have the disease.

God definitely would prefer that we save sex for marriage, but the reality is that people are having sex. And getting sexually transmitted diseases. And getting AIDS. I would much rather address this reality - condemn the sin, but not the sinner. But help others as much as possible. Raise awareness. Talk to our families. Talk to our communities and our church members. And let them know that God loves them anyway.

I know many churches are reaching out to AIDS victims, and I only hope that we can continue to help one another in our struggle for happiness, peace and a satisfying life.

A Nappy Girl said...

First off,

Condoms are not made of steel, folks. Latex is a porous material. We're not talking about condoms breaking. We're starting with a material that is not foolproof. Yet most of us suport the "safe sex" propoganda. That saddens me. The best "protection" is abstain until marriage, and to be faithful, once married.

While the above stance is not popular, I will not participate in the "dumbing" of America, by attempting to make folks feel safe, cuz they use Trojan™ brand.

Question: If you KNEW someone had AIDS, would you feel "protected" using a condom during sex with them?

sonya said...

Ms. Nappy -

I agree with you that condoms are not foolproof. But, the reality is 1. people are having sex and 2. they are not always protecting themselves (evidenced by the large number of STDs being passed around and the preponderance of the AIDS virus).

I would love to tell people to abstain until marriage, but it's just not happening. I do think that's the way God intended for things to be, but I don't see it happening much. Which is why my mantra is: protect yourself. By abstinence or celibacy, and if that isn't happening, then with condoms.

Also - there is no guarantee that any of the above methods will prevent you from getting AIDS. You can marry someone with the best intentions - even get tested - and could still end up with AIDS. AIDS doesn't always show up right away or one or both of you could be unfaithful or drift into drug use.

I think the least any of us could do is arm ourselves with knowledge first and protection second.

Thanks for the comments...

A Nappy Girl said...

Sonya,

Folks know about condoms. They know about 'safe' sex. I really doubt that it's a matter of education, at this point. I could go up to any sexually active teenager in any major high school in any US city, and I'll bet most if not all, could recite the 'safe sex' mantra.

There are many folks out there, who have a secret 'death wish'. There are people who are just..irresponsible when it comes to their sexuality, as with other areas of their lives.

There are people who think AIDS just won't happen to them. They've heard all the stats, they see all the Trojan condom commercials and they've read all the magazine articles. But, they somehow think that they won't be touched.

As a Christian, my responsibility is to communicate God's truth, not man's lie. Secondly, yes we can all end up in any manner of situations, but that's not the point. Do what you know is right, and let God deal with what's down the road.

Sin complicates that which should be very simple. Because the church has failed when it comes to preparing our young people to manage their sexuality effectively, we have adopted the "Well, you know ain't nothing we can do. They're gonna have sex. So, let's just push the 'safe sex' message".

God is not mocked. God does not "suggest" that we abstain from pre-marital sex. It's a commandment.

So yes, a condom is "better than nothing", but I would want better odds than that, when it comes to the possibility of contracting something that will kill me.

Perhaps we should have some folks speak about contracting AIDS, while using a condoms.

It's a spiritual battle, not an intellectual one. I don't need to push the condom message. It's already out there. Trojan™ ain't pushin' "abstain until marriage".

sonya said...

Ms. Nappy:

Again, I agree with what you're saying about God's message as opposed to societal messages. But I think the church hasn't necessarily failed to manage their members' sexuality so much as failed to acknowledge the truth about what's going on in society.

We should definitely preach God's word. Abstinence. Celibacy. And waiting until marriage to have sex. I have absolutely no issue with telling people about these things.

What I have a problem with is preaching this message, sending people home and that's all they have to go by. By ignoring the obvious - that people take that message and do the best they can with it. This means being abstinent. Or being abstinent for a season. Or committing to the idea of celibacy until marriage. Or getting out of a relationship. Or getting into one. Or whatever. I would still argue, however, that most people (who are in relationships, but not married) are having sex.

So do we ignore this reality? Do we simply tell them to abstain and God's word and then let them go without any other options or advice? Yes - we all know the safe sex message, but I think it would be a bit more powerful as part of a church program or as a part of church outreach.

Many people feel turned away by the church, because the church does not meet them where they are. We are all trying to live according to a higher standard, but many of us still lie, cheat, steal or covet (all against God's commandments). Sex is just one of the most obvious sins and, as such, an easy target for people to condemn.

I just want our people (fellow Christians) and those just coming into the fold to know the church as a place of understanding and tolerance. And a place where they can receive wisdom and knowledge of God's word and his Perfect Will for our lives. That He as an ideal standard in mind for all of us. And, as long as we acknowledge those standards and strive to meet them, we are still in line with His word.