Rae Lewis-Thornton: “What’s Keeping Magic Alive Is The Same Thing Keeping Me Alive”
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 only 12% 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?
The CDC estimates that 79 percent of newly diagnosed African Americans are linked to medical care within 3 months of their diagnosis. Sounds great, right? The problem is only 51 percent remain in care. Only 37 percent of African Americans are prescribed antiretroviral theory (ART) and only 29 percent achieved viral suppression. Let me break it down.
When we find out our status, we get connected to care, but we don’t stay in care. While in care, we are not receiving the vital medications that can expand our life expectancy and or we are not taking our medication consistently to reach viral suppression.
Now, I’m not a social scientist, but I understand that some of these statics are rooted in poverty, homelessness, distrust of the medical community, mental illness, rural vs. city living and if I asked you, I bet we could add to this list all day.
Yet, I also understand that some of these statistics are rooted in plain old,…