It is axiomatic that whatever nags or plagues the majority community, often weakens and is far worse in the African-American community.
Unfortunately, like the disparate morbidity and mortality statistics of many other diseases and health conditions among white and black Americans, HIV/AIDS follows this pattern.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that African-Americans represent approximately 12 percent (in 2007) of the U.S. population, but also continues to account for a higher proportion of cases at all stages of HIV/AIDS—from infection with HIV to death with AIDS—compared with members of other races and ethnicities.
In a (CDC) fact sheet revised in August 2009, and a 2007 race/ethnicity graph (shown below), “51 percent of African-Americans, 29 percent of whites, 18 percent of Hispanic/Latinos, 1 percent of Asians, and less than 1 percent of Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians/Alaska Natives received a new HIV/AIDS diagnoses.” These percentages included children diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2007, and was based on data collected from 34 states with long-term, confidential name-based HIV reporting.
But that is only part of the very catastrophic picture.
A CDC report titled “MMWR Sexual and Reproductive Health of Persons Aged 10—24 Years—United States, 2002—2007,” illustrates how “approximately 22,000 adolescents and young adults aged 10-24 years in 33 states were living with HIV/AIDS in 2006. A majority of these cases included females ages 20-24 at 71 percent, and 80 percent of males in the same age range.”
HIV infection is not only the leading cause of death for African-American women aged 25–34 years, it is also the third leading cause of death for African-American women aged 35–44 years, and the fourth leading cause of death for African-American women aged 45–54 years.
It is the fourth leading cause of death for Hispanic women aged 35–44 years, and in overall causes of death among women, HIV infection was the fifth leading cause of death for all women aged 35-44, and the sixth leading cause of death for all women aged 25-34. Only cancer and heart disease causes more deaths among women of all ethnicities then HIV/AIDS.
The report continues: “However, among youth, ages 10-14, the majority of AIDS diagnoses, 61 percent, were received by females.”
This last statistic is the most alarming of all. How can we expect to stop the ravage and spread of this most vicious disease if 10-14 year-old adolescent females are being affected at an alarming rate?
Where are the parents, teachers, neighbors, the clergy, the village? Where are we failing to educate our children and protect them from this deceptive, insidious thief of innocence, health, and life itself?
It will take all of us to stop the spread of this “kiss of death” that is seducing and claiming too many of our children—our future—because of ignorance, neglect and denial.
If we fail to intervene, we at best are in denial, at worst guilty of negligence.
Yes, as parents, teachers, and caring adults, we may all struggle with questions and issues of when to discuss sex and reproductive health with children let alone run the risk of traumatizing or instilling fear with a discussion of HIV/AIDS. But we can ill afford to do nothing. We must find the right timing, the appropriate balance in when and how to openly and honestly discuss the subject. But discuss it, we must.
How many more 10-14-year olds can we afford to allow to be victimized?
How many more can we sentence to a horrid illness and abbreviated life.
Imagine a doctor telling you that your child, grandchild, child of a friend or colleague has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS because of sexual activity!
It is painful to imagine. The reality can only be so much worse.
Shouldn’t that be enough for us to intervene?