The country's leading African-American lawmakers, civil rights leaders and medical experts today called on the federal government to adopt and implement a new blueprint to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in the African-American community. The plan is outlined in a new report, African-Americans, Health Disparities and HIV/AIDS: Recommendations for Confronting the Epidemic in Black America, written by Robert E. Fullilove, EdD, associate dean for Community and Minority Affairs and professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. The report was released by the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) in advance of World AIDS Day (December 1).
Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic 25 years ago, African-Americans have been overrepresented among those living with and dying from AIDS. The disease continues to affect African-Americans more than any other racial/ethnic group in the United States. Today, African Americans comprise only 13% of the U.S. population but account for over half of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Over 200,000 African-Americans have died of AIDS, half a million are now living with HIV and blacks are 10 times more likely than whites to have AIDS. Confronting this national health disparity is a paramount concern.
NMAC's report, written by Dr. Fullilove, is a comprehensive analysis of the complex social, economic and personal factors that underpin the black AIDS epidemic. Its recommendations are endorsed by a blue-ribbon expert advisory panel of some 30 African-American leaders that includes, among others, Julian Bond (chairman, NAACP), Dr. Louis Sullivan (former Secretary of Health and Human Services), Dr. David Satcher (former U.S. Surgeon General), Marian Wright Edelman (president, Children's Defense Fund) and Marc Morial (president, National Urban League).
"At this time each year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases new national HIV statistics and we see an ever-increasing toll of AIDS on the African-American community," said Dr. Fullilove. "And each year we ask why AIDS is hitting black Americans hardest. Our analysis identifies the forces that drive the epidemic in black America, and recommends proven, practical and affordable strategies that government must implement without delay to protect the health of African Americans."
"It is a national tragedy that the AIDS crisis has continued unabated in the African-American community for so many years," said Beny Primm, M.D., NMAC's chair emeritus. "There is a danger that we view AIDS as a problem that only affects Africa when it remains a real and growing danger in our own backyard. That kind of complacency is killing people and it has to stop. This plan of action shows us the path forward to reversing this national disparity."
"The U.S. government is showing leadership in addressing the global pandemic, but we are failing to confront AIDS here at home," said Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen (D-U.S. Virgin Islands), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus' Health Braintrust. "Are we willing to sacrifice another half-million African-American lives to this entirely preventable disease? It is up to the members of the newly elected 110th Congress to answer this question."
African-Americans, Health Disparities and HIV/AIDS: Recommendations for Confronting the Epidemic in Black America presents five policy solutions that address the increasingly disproportionate impact HIV/AIDS is having on the African-American community:
The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) was founded in 1987 to develop leadership within communities of color to address challenges of HIV/AIDS. Today, NMAC is an association of AIDS service organizations providing valuable information to community-based organizations, hospitals, clinics and other groups assisting people and families living with and affected by the AIDS epidemic. African-Americans, Health Disparities and HIV/AIDS: Recommendations for Confronting the Epidemic in Black America is available at www.nmac.org and has been endorsed by a number of organizations, including AIDS Project Los Angeles, Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, Lambda Legal, the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, the Harm Reduction Coalition and others.
NMAC's report complements a series of publications from the Black AIDS Institute exploring the African-American HIV/AIDS epidemic. Black AIDS Institute reports and policy recommendations are available at www.blackaids.org.
About HIV/AIDS in the United States
2006 marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the AIDS epidemic. The first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the June 5, 1981 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Today, the CDC estimates that 1.1 million Americans are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Of these, nearly half (47%) are African- American. Since the beginning of the epidemic, African-Americans have accounted for 379,278 (40%) of the estimated 944,306 AIDS cases diagnosed. Through December 2004, an estimated 201,045 African-Americans have died of AIDS.
About the Mailman School of Public Health
The only accredited school of public health in New York City, and among the first in the nation Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health provides instruction and research opportunities to more than 900 graduate students in pursuit of masters and doctoral degrees. Its students and more than 270 multi-disciplinary faculty engage in research and service in the city, nation, and around the world, concentrating on biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health policy and management, population and family health, and sociomedical sciences. www.mailman.hs.columbia.edu
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