Rae Lewis-Thornton: “What’s Keeping Magic Alive Is The Same Thing Keeping Me Alive”
Today is the observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (#NBHAAD) and there are tons and tons of social media posts about prevention and testing for African Americans. I’m even participating in one of those Twitter Chats at 12 noon CST (you can follow the dialogue with @blackdoctor @raelt and @FDOMH). For sure all of these actions are important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans are 44 percent of all new diagnoses of HIV cases in the United States, yet we comprise only12% of the population. It is estimated that 41 percent of those living with HIV nation wide are African American and about 14 percent don’t even know they are infected.
Equally alarming is the high death rate among African Americans. A whopping 54 percent of all AIDS-related deaths are African American. For sure this is connected to the care and treatment, or lack thereof, of African Americans rather than medical ability to control the virus. Lets’ be clear, the advances around the treatment of HIV in the last 36 years since the first cases of AIDS are nothing short of remarkable.
When I was diagnosed in March of 1987, there was nothing to treat HIV. Then, AZT came and other antiretroviral medications slowly trickled in. Today, there are 39 HIV medications in six different drug classes that attack HIV differently. When I say no one has to die from AIDS-related death, I don’t want to make it sound that simple, but it really is that simple.
So why are we dying at a much higher rates then everyone else?