It’s Not Going Away

Just because something isn’t discussed much anymore does not mean that it is no longer a problem.  HIV/AIDS has not disappeared and, in fact, segments of some communities are experiencing an increase in the rate of escalation.

There has been much discussion about, and lots of opposition to, proposed reforms to the nation’s health care system.  Funding and expense reduction has been a particular point of contention.  At what point do we begin a dialogue concerning how well current programs are addressing existing problems?  Can we afford to just talk about it and wait for government officials to decide what the next steps should be before action is taken?

The current rate of HIV/AIDS  infection among African American  women has continued to grow;  African American women make up 65% of new AIDS diagnoses among women even though they represent a mere 12% of the overall female population in the United States.  There are multiple reasons why this staggering statistic exists; factors related to social class and cultural conditions, increased levels of stress, poverty and poor health status put black women in America at an increased risk of contracting the virus.  Personal responsibility matters too: some of the women (knowingly or not) either share men or have sex with men who have been in and out of jail.  At the very least, women should approach sexual activity with healthy suspicion.  Women should seek birth control and follow disease prevention measures (such as simply using a condom) that are readily available through organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Why should this be discussed?  The fact that existing intervention programs have not really addressed the issues is reason enough.  From a cost point of view if we as a nation are going to pay for programs we should make sure they’re doing what they say they are intended to do.  More personally, as a nurse I see that the increasing proportions of new AIDS diagnosis among black women may reflect disparities in whether and how women seek healthcare.  Early testing, early access to medical care and adherence to highly active retroviral therapy is critical for anyone who is infected with HIV/AIDS virus.

If we as a society do not develop effectively run programs that address the social and economic states associated with HIV risk the problem will only become more widespread.  Viruses do not discriminate.  Intervention programs for African American women that target risks are behavioral programs — but the need for support programs and services that have a positive psychological, physical and social effect are also needed.  This added support will greatly help to decrease the spread of this disease among African American women.   It should be acknowledged that most of the women who are infected engaged in monogamous heterosexual sex.  Pointing fingers and talk of personal accountability will not stop the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus —  it only adds to the stigma of shame for those who are ill informed and in need of assistance.

We should be long past the point of using archaic methods to solve ever-evolving problems.  Elected officials who truly are interested in health care need to study effective means for addressing imbalances in access to care and delivery of health care services.

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