Charlie Sheen captured the world’s attention when it was revealed that he was living with HIV. Yet, 69% of the 35 million people living with HIV are Black. In the United States, Blacks are eight times more likely to get infected that white Americans. The vast majority of HIV infections (23.8 million) are in Africa. Both in this country and in the rest of the world, Black persons are far less likely to have access to the life-saving medications that can both prevent HIV and halt disease progression. While using one or two tablets per day changed a disease that many called a “death sentence” to being a chronic illness, this is not accurate for Black Americans or for millions in Africa. While the scientific successes of antiretroviral medications are being celebrated today, on World AIDS Day, it is far more likely to save and improve the lives of white and/or well-insured Americans and global citizens. Those who need these effects most are among the last to access the treatments. In Los Angeles, the rate of HIV infection among Black gay and bisexual men who do not use condoms is between 5-7%, a rate that has yet to budge even in light of all of the successes in the HIV treatment and prevention fields. What is deafening is the silence about this situation at all levels — from policy and decision makers to our communities and informs some aspects of the answer to the question of whether black lives matter in the United States. This situation needs to end. On this World AIDS Day, it’s time to rally to ensure initiatives are enacted to reduce this important healthcare disparity, to reduce the number of new infections in communities of Black MSM and to provide evidence that black lives, indeed, do matter.
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