Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, today am privileged to have this precious moment with you to discuss about the epidemic that has threatened to wipe away the youthful generation of African Americans. By the nature of ethnicity, the black community in United States is having a heavy burden due to the effects of the disease. Statistical results shows that by the end of 2007, nearly half (46%) of the infected were members of the black community. In the year 2006, the blacks accounted about 45 % of the new infections in fifty states as well as District of Columbia.
It is very sad to find out that up to now many members of the black community are still losing their lives in a disease that can be easily controlled. It is estimated that 230,000 blacks in U.S. have lost their lives as a result of AIDS. These deaths represent a 40% of all the deaths. Statistics also show that about one million people live with the virus in America today with half of them coming from the black community. To you members of the panel do you believe on the statistical reports that indicate African American citizens contributing to 40% of HIV AIDS epidemic deaths?
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As a racial group, the blacks represent only 13% of the country's total population. Estimations indicate that black males are exposed to the risk of being infected with I person in every six likely to be infected with the virus. For females, 1 out of every 30 of them is highly exposed than white males. Washington D.C has the country's highest HIV prevalence with Â¾ of its infected population coming from the black community.
Ladies and gentlemen, reports from the "National HIV/AIDS Strategy African American" makes up the biggest part of the HIV cases across many infected groups. These groups include heterosexuals, homosexuals, women, infants and drug users.
Before we embark in the journey of fighting the epidemic in the community, we need to ask ourselves why members of the black community are disproportionately infected by the virus and how do they view the disease. According to you members of the panel, what do you think is the reason behind this disproportionate infection of blacks? I would also like you the members of the panel to figure out question that demands our attention is to try and figure out strategies being taken to mitigate the number of cases being highlighted in clinics and other health institutions across the country. As facilitators what do you think are the necessary strategies needed to be undertaken to control the spread?
First and foremost, I would like to begin the discussion by looking at the first cases of the disease among the blacks. The epidemic first came into the public limelight in early 1980s. At first, the epidemic affected mainly the gay male population and drug users who used intravenous methods to inject drugs into their bodies. In the year 1983, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came out with the evidence of the first two cases of HIV in women. The two ladies acquired the virus through sexual intercourse with a drug user who used intravenous method to inject the drugs into his body. One of the ladies was of a Latin origin while her counterpart was a black.
Since then, the disease started spreading at a high rate among the members of the black community. Women especially, were affected and five years later, the blacks accounted for 50 percent of all the AIDS cases in America. I'm afraid to say that currently, sixty percent of women infected with the virus come from the black community (http://www.avert.org/hiv-african-americans.htm).
Earlier on, a bigger problem was the reflection of the epidemic by the American media as a disease typical to white gay men. The blacks were provided with few reasons to believe that the disease could also affect them, despite the large portion of the early cases in bisexual and gay community coming from the black men. From the outset, black American heterosexual children and adults were mainly infected by white heterosexuals. From your perspective, do you blacks are at a higher risk than the whites?
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I'm delighted to inform you that the first group to confront the epidemic through the enlightenment of the members of the black community was the San Franciscan Gay community or Black and White Men Together (BWMT). This movement was significant not only for counting Reggie Williams as one of its followers, but also gave rise to an AIDS organization. I personally would like to salute Williams as one of the first gay black activist who worked for many years to deal with deaths and enlightened homosexual members of the black community. Do you think William's contribution to addressing the disease had significant impacts on the fight against the disease? The lobby became successful and ultimately led to provision of first ever donation by CDC to prevent the spread of the disease among the black gay community in the year 1998.
The concern of the AIDS epidemic among the blacks in 1980s and 1990s was also raised by various highly influential members of the community who were infected with the disease or lost a friend or family members through the diseased. My salutation also goes to Max Robinson, the first black American news anchor. Max openly admitted that he was positive just before he died in 1988. Later on Arthur Ashe died of the same ailment in 1993 with rapper Eazy-E beaming another victim in 1995.
May be the most influential AIDS victim of black origin who is still alive today is the basket ball player Ervin Johnson. He admitted that he was positive in 199. His assertion that "any one can contract" the disease showed a significant understanding that the AIDS epidemic was not just a disease typical to gays. Other individuals who have contributed in raising the profile in the black community include Jesse Jackson who became another famous black man to join other well known blacks in addressing the epidemic.
The main risk factor among the blacks is sexual transmission. Having unprotected sex is the major likely cause of the disease. 43 % of the blacks living with the disease got the virus through male to male sexual intercourse. A research conducted showed that national HIV/AIDS policy showed that half of the black gay males and bisexuals in five well known cities in United States of America being HIV positive. A major study undertaken in 21 cities concluded that almost 1/3 of the black MSM had the AIDS virus. Among this category, the youth are mainly affected. In 2006, many black people in America who had sex with other men were infected with the disease. Also, the disease among this group has increased rapidly. Since 2001 and 2006, yearly HIV diagnoses among the African American MSM aged 13 and 24 went up by 93 % compared to twelve percent among the blacks of all ages. How many of you members of the panel agree with me that sexual intercourse is the leading cause of high rate of spread of the epidemic among the blacks?
Many theories have been however proposed regarding the vulnerability of the young black men to the disease through the activities of homosexuality, but none is actually decisive. One theory is the high prevalence of the disease among the many of the members of the community. The risk is enhanced in young men who partner with their older male counterparts since older MSM appear to have had a lot of sexual exposure and increasing the risk of contracting the disease.
Young African American MSM is also less likely to be informed about their status. This translates into less likelihood for them to take the necessary steps to stop the transmission of the disease. However, other studies have shown that young black take part in risky affairs to a greater degree than young Latin or White males.
Also, black women are mainly disproportionately exposed to the disease, with the likely transmission means being heterosexual sexual practices. Eighty five percent of the black women living with HIV virus were exposed to the virus by through this means and make up nearly 50 % of the country's female population with the disease. Back men living with the virus makes up 22% and were infected through heterosexual means. More than 2/3 of infected men were exposed in this manner to the disease (.http://www.avert.org/hiv-african-americans.htm).
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There are a lot of economic as well as social factors that come as a result of high levels of sexual HIV infections in the black community. However, higher phases of STDs in this group are also shaped by economic and social factors hence facilitating sexual transmission of the virus. The black Americans have eight times the number the level of Chlamydia, and eighteen times the level of gonorrhea compared to Whites. An evaluation by United States Centre for Disease and Prevention (CDC) discovered that nearly half (48%) of black females and about forty percent of African American men got infected by genital herpes in the country compared to 21% of females and 11.5%of men generally. Can anyone of you tell me the possible ways of reducing poverty in our society?
Drug use is one of the most likely causes of AIDS epidemic among the members of the black community. In the year 2008, use of drugs was found to contribute a significant portion of all AIDS diagnoses among the blacks. Many black men and women living with the disease were infected through drug injection compared to those of any other race or ethnic group. Blacks injecting drugs have a likelihood of acquiring the in a higher rate and do not live longer after the diagnosis.
Poverty also is another main factor that leads to infection of the virus among the black Americans. Poverty forces youths to drop out of school, stopping them from getting good jobs and good employment. Poverty also makes youths to lose a sense of value or self worth and attracted to illegal or socially ill habits that can expose them to the disease. Poverty symptoms also influence sexual patterns that enhance the spread of the disease. There is therefore need to pay a lot of attention to both economic and social perspectives in which the disease thrive. One person who has initiated such an idea is the current president Barack Obama. The president in his presidential crusade literature promised to tackle the poverty scourge where the victims of the disease proliferate.
It is a fact that about Â¼ of the black American families lives in deplorable conditions, with a higher poverty rate for both single male headed and female headed homes making up to 30 and 40 percent respectively. A focus group that involved the blacks living in North Carolina showed that there is a connection between participant's social environment and sexual connections within the community. These factors also included institutional stigmatization that lead to lack of employment possibilities and lack of capacity to obtain mortgage, lack of recreation and high imprisonment rates. Has any one of you experienced any form of stigma in the work place?
The common believe among the blacks is that the government is not doing its mandate to address the need of protecting them from the epidemic. By estimation, half of the CDC budget is aimed at fighting the spread of the disease among the blacks. It is debated that directing the whole CDCs budget to the epidemic in the black community is not enough. What needs to be improved therefore is the size of the budget itself. For the financial year 2009, $ 1.6 billion was required to prevent the spread of the virus. This reflected a far excess budget than $753 million allocated for the year 2008 (.http://www.avert.org/hiv-african-americans.htm).
Finally, ladies and gentle men, I would like to conclude my speech by saying that any sustained and effective attempt to tackle AIDS in United States of America should have positive results for the African American citizens as they make up such a large percentage of the overall infections. The CDC's consideration of and study of entrenched social aspects, like poverty which are the main contributors to the current HIV infection rates, is positive stride and should be seen in all concrete acts taken to alter the trend of HIV infection in the African American community.