Strategy pushed to aid blacks' HIV/AIDS fight

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Groups call on feds, new Congress to act

November 17, 2006


Black politicians, civil rights leaders and medical experts issued a call to the federal government and newly elected members of Congress on Thursday to expand programs that help fight HIV and AIDS among African Americans.

A five-point strategy to reduce the impact of the disease in the black community is detailed in a report released by the National Minority AIDS Council. It includes programs ranging from free condoms in prison to injection drug prevention programs to affordable housing.

The report, "African Americans, Health Disparities and HIV/AIDS: Recommendations for Confronting the Epidemic in Black Americans," was released in advance of World AIDS Day, which is Dec. 1.

African American men, women and children now account for half of new HIV diagnoses and 55 percent of people dying nationally of AIDS, although they make up 13 percent of the U.S. population.

"In 2006, AIDS in America is a black disease," said Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles.

"We have to stop the devastation this disease is causing in our community, and I think this plan offers a clear blueprint," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in a press release. "The fact is that this administration and the Republican Congress have never paid much attention to the needs of African American or minority communities when it comes to fighting AIDS, and you can bet that we are going to work to change that in the new Congress."

The five recommendations are:

-- Support the strengthening of stable African American communities by addressing the need for more affordable housing.

-- Reduce the impact of incarceration as a driver of new HIV infection within the African American community.

-- Eliminate marginalization of -- and reduce stigma and discrimination against -- black gay men and other men who have sex with men.

-- Expand HIV prevention education programs, promote the early identification of HIV through voluntary, routine testing and connect those in need of treatment to it as early as possible.

-- Reduce the number of HIV infections in the African American community caused by injection drug use through the expansion of substance abuse prevention programs, drug treatment and recovery services and clean-needle exchange programs.

"HIV/AIDS remain a real and growing danger in our own backyard," said Dr. Beny Primm, chairman emeritus of the minority AIDS council. "Confronting the national health disparity is of paramount concern to all of us. Complacency is killing people."

The council analyzed the social, economic and personal factors that underpin the black AIDS epidemic in order to recommend proven, practical and affordable strategies for the government, said Robert Fullilove, the report's author and a medical professor at Columbia University.

Supporters of the policies include the Urban League, the NAACP, former Surgeon General David Satcher and several AIDS organizations and members of Congress.

"We must put our money where our mouth is," said Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Carson (Los Angles County). "We as a nation must continue to put money in to fight this epidemic that is ravaging our communities."



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