Tag Archives: HIV/AIDS

An Open Letter to Tyler Perry

By Guest Contributor Chris MacDonald-Dennis

Image via www.atoast2wealth.com.

Image via www.atoast2wealth.com.

Mr. Perry,

I had promised myself months ago that I would not comment on your movies anymore because it was only serving to raise my blood pressure.  Like the Serenity Prayer says, I was going to accept the things I cannot change.  It worked for a while, too.  But then you released Temptation, and I had to say something.

For years, I have believed that Black folks deserve better than you. I realize that this can be seen as patronizing.  You see, I am not Black.  Some may say that I do not have a right to comment on you and Black communities. I would actually agree with them. I may have my opinions about your “artistry” and the impact of your movies on Black communities but that is an intra-community discussion for Black folks to have. This will certainly not stop me from holding my opinions and sometimes sharing them; however, I do believe that it is Black folks who need to begin that particular conversation.

However, this time you decided to talk about my community: those of us living with HIV/AIDS.

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The Assembly

By Guest Contributor Bushra Rehman, cross-posted from The Feminist Wire

SLAAAP!!! Poster by Chitra Ganesh. Image via The Feminist Wire.

Queens, NY, 1984.

Nothing in P.S. 19 was ever heated enough. The auditorium, the cafeteria, the large windows with their pull-down plastic vinyl drapes rattled in another winter storm.

Ms. Cooperman, our teacher, frowned as she saw us shiver. “Bring your coats,” she said. “We’re having an assembly.”

It had snowed heavily the day before, and not many students or teachers had come to school. It would be another day spent smelling each other’s winter coats and feeling trapped, watching The Red Balloon, a silent film which seemed to be the only film the school owned.

But we did as Ms. Cooperman said because we adored her. It was clear she cared for all of us, even those who spilled over, out of our seats and into the hallways. We used to ask Ms. Cooperman why she had never gotten married. She always laughed and said, “I’m not married because I don’t want to be.”

On this snowy day, the entire fifth grade piled into the auditorium. I was lucky to get a wooden seat without gum glued to the bottom. Mr. Nichols, the vice principal stood in front of the stage. He was skinny, pale, fidgety, and always dressed in a tie and jacket.

“All right, boys and girls. Today we’re going to show a movie about a very important topic. I want everyone to pay attention.” We didn’t listen to him, of course. The teachers tried to shush us as he continued, “This is a movie about AIDS.”

Everyone got quiet. We’d been hearing about this new illness in whispers. We were children living in the middle of an epidemic, but no one ever told us anything. We were only taught to be afraid. Someone turned off the lights, and I had an apprehension this would be nothing like The Red Balloon.

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Voices: Reflecting on Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2011

Monday, February 7, was National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  Below are two writers on the continuing conditions perpetuating HIV infection in Black communities and how to combat them.–AJP

Black AIDS Institute’s chief executive and president, Phill Wilson, wasn’t exaggerating when he said that “AIDS is the fire that is ravaging the black community.”

So what exactly is fueling the flames?

There is no one answer. It’s a combination of many factors: Poverty and economic instability. Institutionalized racism. Lack of quality health care, poor access to health care in general and mistrust in the medical system. Gender inequality and domestic violence. Homophobia. Intravenous drug use and the lack of needle-exchange programs. Poor health literacy. High rates of incarceration. Untreated sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes and gonorrhea, which make people more vulnerable to contracting HIV. And people having unprotected sex while unaware that they are positive, and who thus go untreated while they’re highly infectious.

The slow response by the federal government has played a role as well, as has a lack of funding. Thirty years into the epidemic, and it was only just last year that the U.S. government finally released a national HIV/AIDS strategy.

But most importantly, the black community’s own slow response to the epidemic has had a profound impact. Minus a few exceptions, most black media publications, churches and community leaders set the tone early by turning a blind eye to HIV, believing that this epidemic was not their problem and that HIV was a moral issue as opposed to a public health crisis. In the end, we have all paid a price for their unwillingness to address the disease early on.

Don’t get me wrong: Over the years, we have seen some progress in having public conversations about HIV, and the importance of getting tested and practicing safer sex. But we still have a long way to go. Unfortunately, too many current conversations about HIV — especially in the black media — are either met with resistance, treaded lightly or saturated with inaccuracies (think: everything about the down low).

~~Kellee Terrell, “HIV/AIDS in Black America: The Uphill Battle

In the late 1990s, right about when taxpayer-developed lifesaving drugs hit the market and America declared victory over HIV, the epidemic split: Black diagnoses continued climbing as a share of overall diagnoses, while white diagnoses plummeted. In other words, in the part of America where people had access to care, the epidemic changed dramatically; elsewhere, it didn’t.

There are many, complex factors driving the black AIDS epidemic, from the much discussed stigma to the much less discussed basic access to meaningful health care. We’ll be parsing these throughout the year. But in the end, as the graph above suggests, today’s epidemic is also shaped dramatically by one factor: whether our government takes it seriously enough to end it, in all parts of our society.

~~Kai Wright, “One Question on Black AIDS Day: Do We Care Enough to End It?”

Image credit: CBS Minnesota

Quoted: The Gaps Between Young People of Color and AIDS Activism

But in the terms of the power discussion, what if, in fact, you are power? What if in fact you are powerful, in that you feel like you make the decisions about the man that you’re going to sleep with, and whether you’re going to use a condom with him or not? What if you’ve got the power in deciding? But we know this is not the case for so many of our young women, and yet we’ve grown up with prevention that presumes and assumes, and that incorporates the idea of giving women power. We’re asking — we’re needing — power over primarily an organ that we don’t even have attached to our body.

“The other piece of the discussion, of course, that’s always been missing, long been missing, is: AIDS, Inc., does not know what to do with heterosexually identified men….AIDS, Inc., does not know what to do with sexually active men who are not exclusively gay — let me put it like that. Unless you are exclusively gay, out, or even a little bit kind of halfway what society labels as “down low,” AIDS, Inc. doesn’t know what to do with black men’s sexuality. It just doesn’t. We don’t have the right studies for it. We don’t have the right access for it. We don’t have any idea, except prison — which is my whole other issue — of where you can have an opportunity to engage men around health literacy, right? Sexuality addiction that plays into factors; sex that happens with men that does not mean, or does not reflect, an orientation. We don’t have the places to have those discussions. The good thing about what we’re doing with the girls is that we’re able to have those venues to have that discussion.

“But as long as we’re able to access health care, mostly around our reproductive organs, and men don’t have a similar place where they even ever have to come into care, unless they’re coming into care for prostate cancer — and that’s a sure sign that they’ve come too late — we’ve been doing one-hand clapping for a long time. So it’s not even about what works, or what doesn’t work; we’re still trying to figure it out.”

~~Tracie Gardner, Founder and Coordinator of the Women’s Initiative to Stop HIV/AIDS NY at the Legal Action Center

Read the rest of the interview here.

Image Credit: News One