Our next President and AIDS

Today during my daily commute to Newark, NJ, my mom and I listened to radio station WBAI’s segment on the recent HIV/AIDS budget cut in the state of New York. Accompanying the discussion were two positively diagnosed HIV/AIDS community activists to share their stories and answer questions.

The discussion was prompted by the fact that New York has recently cut over $2 million dollars in state budget for services surrounding HIV/AIDS services and programs. The already insufficient amount of funding is evidenced in the fact that in NYC alone hundreds of HIV/AIDS patients are living in homeless shelters without the prospects of ever receiving housing, as one guest activist shared. Consequently, homeless shelters are often overpopulated with HIV positive people with little to no access to social services.

This $2 million dollar cut affect many issues such as clean needle exchange and support groups. This cut is a serious blow to citizens of New York, particularly because “New York is still the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic and new infections continue to increase daily”, said Michele McClave, Executive Director of the AIDS Council.

One caller raised the issue, one that my mom and I began discussing shortly we tuned in, of genocide. I mean, a lot of people believe that there is a cure for AIDS out there and that the issue is an economical, pharmaceutical one and not a matter of scientific innovation. Conspiracy theory? Perhaps, but to quote Oscar Wilde: I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible.

Besides, based on a definition of genocide:

Systematic, state-sponsored or encouraged killings of members of a specific, identifiable group.

How far off could one be in making a claim that the reduction and erradication of health and social services for HIV/AIDS patients is a form of genocide.

In the close of the program, the other guest invited people to step up and take action as advocates for people, families, and communities affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Further, raised the issue of our next president addressing the epidemic and such budget cuts.

Being an African-American female, I understand that I am a member of a social group that is disproportionately affected by the epidemic. Just to put some numbers to the words, the CDC outlines the following:

Women of color are especially affected by HIV infection and AIDS. In
2004 (the most recent year for which data are available), HIV infection
was

  • the leading cause of death for black women (including African American women) aged 25–34 years.
  • the 3rd leading cause of death for black women aged 35–44 years.
  • the 4th leading cause of death for black women aged 45–54 years.
  • the 4th leading cause of death for Hispanic women aged 35–44 years.

And consequently, I feel compelled to at least stay informed about HIV/AIDS.

But ultimately, as a human being I feel obligated to this crisis in the recognition that HIV/AIDS is a social problem that intersects with issues such as access to education, housing, healthcare, and poverty.

In considering the War on Iraq, universal healthcare, education, our next president must also address HIV/AIDS epidemic affecting Americans by the millions.

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