If I am not for myself, who is for me? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?
Long time, no science-blog. I apologize. I want to get back into the swing of things... so why not start with a bang?
I watched the documentary Out of Control: AIDS In Black America
tonight on ABC. It shocked me and I got to thinking about how much I didn't know anything, really, that they talked about as far as the epidemic of HIV/AIDS on African Americans. And when I learn new things I have this annoying (but eventually helpful) tendancy to have to spread my new found knowledge every where I can, so here I go...
To start with: here are some numbers, courtesy www.blackaids.org [written in an article here
] that might shock you (bold = my emphasis):Over a million Americans are living with HIV today – nearly half of them are Black.... Federal funding for domestic AIDS care programs has remained largely flat since 2001. Approximately 54% of the new HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in the U.S. are Black. Among women, Blacks account for two-thirds of all new infections. And recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies estimate nearly half of all Black gay and bisexual men in some of America's urban centers are already infected.
And from the more detailed report 25 Years of AIDS and Black America
(a whopping 80 pages to read, if you want), here
:... [In the 90s] the story of AIDS was rapidly and dramatically changing, as new drugs that hit the market in 1995 literally brought people back from death’s door. But not only were the drugs massively expensive, patients also had to be plugged into quality care to know about them—not to mention to manage the still-complicated treatment regimens they required. For those who met these requirements, AIDS suddenly stopped being a death sentence: HIV mortality in the U.S. dropped a staggering 70 percent between 1995 and 1998. Among whites, deaths dropped from more than 22,000 in 1994 to just over 7,000 in 1997.
But the picture for African Americans looked much different. Black death rates dropped too, but far more slowly. In 1996, for the first time, more African Americans died of AIDS than whites. By 2001, the annual Black death toll was nearly double that of whites. Today, we’re [African Americans are] more than seven times more likely to die from AIDS once diagnosed with HIV than whites.
The documentary on ABC tonight talked about these things and the failures that can be seen to contribute. First, people are silent about it. HIV/AIDS is considered by most Americans as an issue that mostly needs to be addressed overseas, not in our own country. Next, the government has failed to support initiatives that may have helped in prevention efforts (such as a federally funded needle exchange program). And there are also different cultural forces at play (ABC reports: Black men are more than twice as likely as white men to have multiple female partners at the same time.
It is issues like this that tempt me, ever so slightly, to go into science/medical policy. What is the institution doing now, how can we start to make a difference? But I'd never survive long in politics... Before I had decided to leave Seattle for Chicago, I had been filling out the application to volunteer for an organization named Shanti
in Seattle, maybe I'll look up to see if they have a similar program in San Diego...