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."

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