Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Saturday is the 20th International recognition of World AIDS Day, and it comes on the heels of headlines about UNAIDS overestimating the number of people who are HIV positive worldwide by some 15 percent.

Tragically, the dramatic news of an over count of 6 million people, sucks the air out of the daily truths that AIDS caregivers cannot flinch from.

This week brought two powerful sets of such truths from the gritty neighborhoods of Washington, DC and the tropical shores of Palm Beach County, Florida. Both truths were the same.

In the nation's capital, the first major study ever done on HIV in the District of Columbia--done over a 5-year period of time--was remarkable for the size and complexity of the epidemic which it measured in DC.

According the Washington Post story, not only were 80 percent of the HIV cases reported among black men, women and children, but 9 out of every 10 women who tested positive were African-American. Strikingly, there were more heterosexual cases of transmission--37 percent--then there were cases of HIV attributable to men having sex with men--a figure down to 25 percent in DC.

"It blows the stereotype out of the water," said the head of DC's HIV/AIDS Administration Shannon Hader. "HIV is everybody's disease here."

Statistical cynics might be quick to point out that since Washington, DC has an overwhelmingly African-American population, of course the statistics would reflect that large numbers of HIV infections were among Blacks. How then, do they explain the same statistics occurring in Palm Beach County, Florida, where Blacks account for only 15% of the population, but make up 65% of the number of people infected with HIV?

In fact, according to the Palm Beach Post, Florida's AIDS case numbers are the 3rd highest in the nation, with 80 percent of the Sunshine State's nearly 2,000 pediatric HIV/AIDS cases being among Black children.

Palm Beach County's Health Director, Dr. Jean Malecki, points out that health education programs in local schools reveal how to avoid acne, but not how to avoid HIV.

"Flinching from the truth accomplishes nothing," Dr. Malecki says.

One Florida community leader not flinching from the truth is Bishop Lewis White of the United Deliverance Church.

"Other pastors have said I'm promoting sex when I hand out condoms," said Bishop Lewis. "I'm sorry to tell them that is not true. People are having sex with or without condoms. I'm promoting life."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


This week’s news that UNAIDS—the leading UN agency charged with fighting AIDS around the globe—lowered it estimates downward of the number of people worldwide infected with the HIV virus from 39 million down to 33, was greeted with mixed reactions.

Of course, its cause for celebration to learn that 6 million less people may be infected with HIV than the UN previously thought. Even one less infection is cause for celebration, at a time when—in many parts of the world—HIV infection is grounds for being cast out of a community or being violently attacked.

However, let’s not give thanks just yet. We’re still talking about staggering levels of disease, with 6,800 people becoming infected with HIV each day, fueling an AIDS catastrophe in far too many places. Even the Harvard School of Public Health’s Daniel Halperin, an expert on HIV infection rates who questions UNAIDS estimates of HIV infections several years ago, was quick to add that “this doesn’t mean the epidemic is going away and everything is fine and now forget about it—not at all.”

“There are still about 10 countries in Southern Africa that are real nightmares,” Halperin told the New York Times.

The corresponding danger here—in addition to a virus that is still raging out of control worldwide—is that people will begin to let their guard down in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We still have far too much work to do to let that happen.

First, while the UNAIDS global figures for new infections may have dropped, the number of people living with the disease worldwide has increased because people with HIV are living longer, thanks to increased access to anti-retroviral drugs. The good news is that people are living longer with the disease; the challenge is to keep improving the quality of their lives, to protect their jobs and livelihoods and to keep them safe from violence aimed at them because of their HIV status. HIV positive people from around the globe still cannot travel easily to the United States, where the immigration laws are squarely lined up against them.

Secondly, this constantly morphing epidemic is not lessening in intensity, but simply shifting gears again. Infection rates may be lower than previously thought, but the lack of information about HIV status, the US’ refusal to fund domestic and international programs that teach prevention techniques other than abstinence, lack of access to quality and affordable healthcare for too many infected people abroad and in the United States, and the growing stigma and discrimination toward people living with HIV have combined to make this a powerful perfect storm of enormous proportions.

It would be a huge mistake for anyone—governments, heads of state, private funders, or NGOs, like Cable Positive, to pull back based upon UNAIDS new figures of global infections, or to pat ourselves on the back for There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done.

“There’s still a huge epidemic out there that still needs huge resources to win the battle,” said Paul Zeitz, head of the Global AIDS Alliance. With 6,800 new infections occurring each day—and the majority of them in the US in the under 25-year old age group—we still have much work to do.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) which convened in Palm Springs, California last week integrated the upscale desert community like it had never been diversified before.

More than 3,000 delegates gathered for the biggest AIDS conference in the United States, and the majority of us were Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, female or gay. The National Minority AIDS Coalition (NMAC) assembled the meeting around the theme “One Family, One Voice, One Spirit,” with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS as a crisis in African American communities.

“We speak with many voices and many faces,” said Ravinia Hayes-Cozier, head of Government Relations & Public Policy at NMAC. “But, whether we are focused on black gay men or the issues facing heterosexual African-American women, we speak and work with the same goal in mind: reducing and eliminating HIV/AIDS from our communities.”

Cable Positive joined forces with the A/PI Wellness Center of San Francisco in presenting a workshop aimed at communicating messages of education, awareness and prevention to communities of color. We shared a powerful cross-section of our past and present PSAs with conference attendees, a short documentary of celebrities behind the scenes working to fight AIDS, and a movie trailer for the upcoming documentary “Positive Voices: Women& HIV” which will be aired on Showtime Networks on November 30. The A/PI Wellness Center, represented by its Policy Director Lina Sheth, presented a detailed case study, demonstrating the effectiveness of the joint campaign between Cable Positive and the Center over the past 3 years. This year’s PSAs aimed specifically at A/PI communities across the country featured actors BD Wong & Jose Llana.

Cable Positive also met with representatives from AIDS Service Organizations from across the country and provided information about our targeted and national awareness campaigns, and our Tony Cox Community Fund which has formed more than 275 AIDS organization/cable system partnerships in local communities across 40 States.

Famed singer, entertainer Nancy Wilson—the newest Board member of NMAC—summarized the commitment of conference participants to continue to battle the epidemic. “ I thought after 55 years as an entertainer, I would be able to retire, and just enjoy being a grandmother,” Wilson said. “But I learned that there was much work still to be done. Young people need to know how to take responsibility for their health, and feel empowered to make the right choices.”

Cable Positive’s new, youth-oriented media campaign and our message that we “still have much work to do,” was perfectly in sync with HIV/AIDS leaders across the country.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sex, Living And The Law

Millions of HIV positive individuals face injustice each day because of their status. The important and informative website is dedicated to raising awareness and supplying resources regarding HIV/AIDS.

The link below sheds some light on the issues of justice and fairness for the people living with HIV or AIDS.