Niggers just don’t get it about AIDS: CDC says millions of Blacks living with HIV in U.S.

By Sinclere Lee

ATLANTA, Georgia (BNW) –
What was once a disease that was exclusive to gay white men in California is now a leading epidemic in the Black community, How can that be? Is the Black community so inferior intelligently that we don’t understand the seriousness of this disease or are we too sorry and stupid to care? The CDC's latest estimates indicate Blacks account for 47 percent of HIV cases; gay and bisexual men make up 45 percent of those living with the virus that causes AIDS, the health agency believes.

In 2003, the rates of AIDS cases were 58 per 100,000 in the Black population, 10 per 100,000 Hispanics, 6 per 100,000 whites, 8 per 100,000 American Indian/Alaska native population, and 4 per 100,000 Asian/Pacific Islanders.

For the first time since the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than a million Americans are believed to be living with the virus that causes AIDS, the government said Monday.

The latest estimate is both good and bad news -- reflecting the success of drugs that keep more people alive and the failure of the government to "break the back" of the AIDS epidemic by its stated goal of 2005.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that between 1,039,000 and 1,185,000 people in the United States were living with HIV in December 2003. The previous estimate from 2002 showed that between 850,000 and 950,000 people had the AIDS virus.

The jump reflects the role of medicines that have allowed people infected with the virus to live longer, said Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention.

"While treatment advances have been an obvious godsend to those living with the disease, it presents new challenges for prevention," Valdiserri said.

The challenges include overcoming a failure by the government to meet its 2005 goal of cutting in half the estimated 40,000 new HIV infections that have occurred every year since the 1990s. Then, Dr. Robert Janssen of the CDC pledged the government campaign would "break the back" of the epidemic.

CDC officials previously have said the country's HIV infection rate has been "relatively stable" and without change. As the National HIV Prevention Conference was set to begin this week, Valdiserri said no new infection data will be available until next year.

However, recent outbreaks of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases in major cities around the country offer a hint that new infections may be as high as 60,000 cases a year, rather than the government estimate of 40,000, said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an Emory University professor of medicine.

"The U.S. has had a clear failure in HIV prevention -- I think the increase in prevalence is a reflection of that, of the poor job we do in HIV prevention," del Rio said.

He added that the higher number is not as surprising as why the country has not been able to curb new infections. He said the CDC hasn't been given adequate resources to tackle HIV prevention and that experts have focused too much on whether it's better to promote abstinence or condom use to stop the spread of the virus.

"We're debating too much what to do and are not doing enough," he said.

At the same time, reaching the 1 million mark is "a sign of both victory and failure," said Terje Anderson, executive director of the National Association of People Living With AIDS.

"Part of the reason the number is so big is we're not dying as before," he said. "But the other problem is we have not made a significant dent in new infections."

Estimating the number of Americans with HIV has always been a difficult task for health officials, but this year's figures are believed to be the most accurate ever thanks to wider case reporting.

In the 1990s, the CDC and other agencies generally agreed that between 600,000 and 900,000 people had the virus, according to the University of California-San Francisco's Center for HIV Information.

Previous estimates -- as high as 1.5 million people -- from the 1980s were later determined to be too high. For example, the CDC estimated in 1986 that between 1 million and 1.5 million people had HIV. In 1987, that was revised to 945,000 to 1.4 million and was refined in 1990 to 800,000 to 1.2 million.

The CDC also warned those demographics may soon change because heterosexual blacks, women and others infected after having high-risk sex (such as with someone with HIV, an injection-drug user or a man who has sex with other men) now account for a larger proportion of those living with HIV than those who are living with full-blown AIDS.

Government places new restrictions on AIDS funding

U.S. groups fighting AIDS overseas are being given an ultimatum by the government: Pledge your opposition to sex trafficking and prostitution or do without federal funds.

The new rule has created confusion among health groups that wonder how it will affect them, and has drawn criticism from others that say it infringes on free speech rights and could do more harm than good.

It will affect about $2.2 billion in AIDS grants and contracts this year, according to Kent Hill, acting administrator for global health at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which recently issued a policy directive outlining the regulation.

Hill said the pledge is a way for the United States to take a stand against a life he called degrading and debilitating.

"Prostitution is not a positive for the people who are involved in it," Hill said. "The vast majority of people, globally, do not find themselves there by choice."

One of those troubled by the free speech issues the pledge requirement raises is Terri Bartlett, vice president for public policy at Population Action International, a health advocacy group for women's issues.

"There's a litmus test of issues and organizations' positions on those issues, and regardless of their ability, they will be judged by that position," Bartlett said.

Bartlett said while she agreed with the pledge requirement's premise that prostitution is a harmful occupation, it may have the unintended effect of deterring prostitutes from seeking help by unnecessarily singling them out.

"We want to build trust and reduce stigma," Bartlett said of dealing with the high-risk population of prostitutes. "This policy flies in the face of what we know works."

Congress passed a bill containing the pledge requirement in 2003. It was immediately applied to foreign aid recipients, but the Justice Department questioned the constitutionality of applying it to domestic organizations. Last fall, the department finally gave the all-clear for the government to implement the requirement here.

The rule now affects private U.S. groups conducting AIDS programs overseas. If a group is looking for a federal grant or contract, it must first adopt a statement saying it opposes prostitution and sex trafficking. Then it must sign a form for the government promising it has the policy. Only then is the organization eligible for funding.

Michael Wiest, vice president of Catholic Relief Services, a recipient of USAID funds, said it would take a lot of time and money to make sure his organization wasn't working with any foreign partner groups that violated the pledge. He said that would be wasted energy because "the idea that one of our partners would be pro-prostitution is ... off the charts."

Although the bill that contained the funding restrictions passed with broad bipartisan support, David Olson, a spokesman for Population Services International, said he is worried that the rules will be used against groups that use methods with which conservatives don't agree.

"This administration has made no secret that they want new partners for AIDS work," Olson said.

He said conservatives favor AIDS prevention programs that focus on abstinence and monogamy, rather than ones that endorse condom use and safe sex.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, made statements to that effect in a letter he wrote to President Bush regarding AIDS programs last month. He specifically criticized USAID for funding Olson's group, which has programs aimed at educating prostitutes and their clients in nightclubs and at bingo-type games where the two groups traditionally mix.

"There is something seriously askew at USAID when the agency's response to a dehumanizing and abusive practice that exploits women and young girls is parties and games." Coburn's letter said.

The anti-prostitution pledge rule is a continuation of conservative policy shifts the Bush administration has implemented for non-governmental organizations.

On Bush's first day in office in 2001, he reinstated the "Mexico City policy," which prohibits private, foreign groups that receive federal family planning money from advising or even discussing the possibility of abortions for clients.

The policy, called the "global gag rule" by critics, originated during President Reagan's era but was dropped during President Clinton's.

Besides the pledge, the new rules require AIDS groups to inform clients of condom failure rates. Another requirement is that the federal government must now give equal opportunity to funding applicants that have "a religious or moral objection" to a particular AIDS prevention method or treatment program, such as condoms or needle exchanges.

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