Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and 87 Members of Congress introduced HR 1880, legislation calling for a status report on the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and progress toward achieving universal access to treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS:
“In honor of the 25 million heroes that we have lost to this horrific epidemic in the last thirty years, I introduced this legislation to reinforce the United States’ commitment to combating HIV/AIDS both at home and abroad.
“Despite many challenges, we have come a long way in our fight against this disease. As we reaffirm our commitment on this occasion, we must stay vigilant to ensure greater progress is made in our communities and around the world”.
Injecting drugs is the second leading cause of HIV infection for both black women and men. Sharing syringes and other equipment for drug injection is a well known route of HIV transmission, but HIV is not only fueled from injection drug use, the use/abuse of alcohol and other drugs such as crack have been playing a continuing role in HIV transmissions, and have since the onset of the HIV epidemic.
The African American Community is in a fight to save as many lives as possible. Delivered like a one two punch, first the HIV epidemic in 1981, and then the Crack epidemic in 1984, we seem to be down for the count. The crisis of HIV in our communities cannot be separated from the crises of poverty, racism, and drugs.
While HIV disease and substance abuse are distinct illnesses, each is affected by the other and each can contribute to the progression of the other. People who use other drugs are more likely to take risks, such as unprotected sex when they are under the influence. Substance abuse treatment is crucial for staying in HIV care and adhering to a treatment regimen. Drug use affects treatment for those with HIV, causing them to not take medicine when they need to. Many studies have shown that people who do crack or cocaine are usually very bad at taking their medicines on a regular basis, especially when they are using a lot of the drug or are on a “binge.”
When people are irregular with their HIV medicine regimens it could lead to the virus becoming resistant to the medicines and thus making it harder to treat the HIV. Other studies have shown that people who use crack or cocaine progress to or develop AIDS faster. Today doctors see many die because they cannot curb their drug use, even though there are now drugs that can save their lives.
Use of crack cocaine was first recognized as a major public health problem in the United States two decades ago. It was quickly identified as a risk factor for HIV infection in association with high-risk sexual practices when considered from the disease perspective, substance abuse shares much in common with HIV. Both are chronic, acute and life-threatening diseases with remissions and exacerbations. They often coexist in the same individual and can remain unrecognized for many years. Moreover, a clinical diagnosis for one may predispose the individual to another.
The spread of crack cocaine took on epidemic proportions between 1984 and 1990, when the drugs’ popularity spread throughout major cities in the United States.
Jim Taylor, who is a community health outreach worker (CHOW) at Alameda County Medical Center, says in the African American community crack has become endemic and when it is co-factored with HIV, creates barriers to care. He recently had a HIV client who almost died from the crack addiction.
“There should be better interventions to help people learn to resist the temptations crack can bring”, he says.
Pernessa C. Seele
By Jesse Brooks
“The National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS”, which began March 2, is a time for African American churches to become centers for AIDS education and compassionate care.
AIDS is destroying the Black Community. The stigma of AIDS continues to persist. Our religious institutions must lead the struggle in stopping the spread of AIDS and command more services and resources for people who are infected and affected.
The idea of a week of prayer in churches originated in 1989 when Pernessa C. Seele, CEO of The Balm In Gilead, started, The Harlem Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. It was so successful that it became known as “The Black Church Week of Prayer” which has continued till today.
Seele wanted a way to invite all believers to step forward beyond the walls that divide us into the circle of conscious prayer for the healing of AIDS. “Let us not allow the issues that divide us to prevent us from entering into a circle of prayer and education with all of our brothers and sisters”, she says, “Let us seek divine guidance for our own individual and congregational paths toward AIDS awareness, advocacy and service”.
The Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS was the nation’s first national HIV/AIDS mobilization campaign. It has reached more than 5 million African Americans.
The late Dr. Dorothy Height, Civil rights pioneer, spoke to President Barack Obama at the White House, “We need to be able to talk about HIV as we talk about jobs, as we talk about housing, as we talk about civil rights. We all have a responsibility to break the silence about this disease – to speak out about HIV, to know that our families and friends and churches are there to support us. And if someone talks to us about HIV, to listen, to learn, and to accept and help if we are called upon”.
On Friday, March 4, Oakland will participate in REAL TALK II, 6 to 9 pm, at Word Assembly Church with Bishop Keith Clark at 410 14th Street. And a youthful ‘Chat ‘n Chew’ program will be held 10:00am to 1:00pm, Saturday, March 5, at the Allen Temple Baptist Church Life Center, 8400 East 14th Street, Oakland with Reverend Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Jr. Both events will feature music, free refreshments.
The time is now to raise the visibility of HIV and AIDS. Let us confront and overcome the stigma that helps keep HIV alive in our communities. We need to talk openly about tough issues like homophobia and discrimination that prevent too many African-Americans from seeking HIV testing and treatment, and support from their friends and family. I invite the readers to join with me, especially those that can’t attend the events listed above, to offer daily noon prayers.