NAACP Partners with Black AIDS Institute
Gamber, Frankie, The Crisis
This year marks a sad anniversary: The first cases of HIV were reported in the United States 25 years ago. While a cure continues to elude scientists, some things have changed since the disease appeared in the gay community in 1981.
"The rate at which you see our community affected by HTV/AIDS is just ridiculous," says NAACP National Health Coordinator Myisha Patterson. "Clearly, AIDS is becoming a Black disease."
African Americans made up half of all new HTV cases in 2004. Between 2001 and 2004, more than 60 percent of people younger than 25 who contracted the disease were African American.
In recognition of the number of African Americans among those infected with HIV/AIDS, the NAACP Health Division renewed its partnership with The Black AIDS Institute in December 2005.
The organizations have worked together in the past, but their most recent collaboration "represents a sea of change in efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Black communities," explains Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute. "It's part of a national Black mobilization that is designed to engage traditional Black organizations, leaders and individuals."
For Wilson, civil rights leaders can encourage a discussion of HIV/AIDS among African Americans who have often been reluctant to do so, given the association of the disease with drug use and unconventional sexuality.
"When these institutions come together and try to take ownership of this disease," Wilson says, "that stigma will begin to dissipate."
In February, both organizations sponsored the release of the report, "The Way Forward: The State of AIDS in Black America in 2006," which charts the spread of the disease and offers recommendations for stopping it. The report is distributed at NAACP national and regional meetings, as well as in branch mailings. The Black AIDS Institute will publish two more reports later this year - one on the 25th anniversary of the epidemic and the other on the 10th anniversity of AIDS treatment. …