HIV Among Blacks Near Epidemic Levels, Advocates Say

Cheryl Wills, NY1 (New York City), May 3, 2009

A group of local activists and ministers are pushing for President Barack Obama to declare HIV/AIDS a public health emergency in African-American communities. NY1’s Cheryl Wills filed the following report.

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But the latest Centers for Disease Control statistics are of great concern to many.

African-Americans account for 45 percent, almost half, of new HIV infections. HIV related deaths are also highest among blacks and is the fourth leading cause of death for black men and third for black women.

“This is more dangerous than the swine flu and I hope that the country will recognize that if we can solve this, then we can move forward in addressing other health disparities,” said Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts, chairman of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.

Both Butts [Calvin Butts, chairman of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS] and Fields [C. Virginia Fields, president of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS] are behind new legislation which, for the first time, specifically addresses AIDS in the African-American community.

H.R. 1964, which is sponsored by Harlem congressman Charlie Rangel, calls on President Obama to declare HIV/AIDS an epidemic in the black community, directs the department of Health and Human Services to provide funds for outreach and testing, and requires a comprehensive study to explain factors that lead to higher rates of HIV and AIDS among black Americans.

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