Making change real

Black AIDS Institute releases new report: ‘State of AIDS In Black America’

Los Angeles – Today the Black AIDS Institute released its annual report on the state of AIDS in Black America. The 2009 edition of the “State of AIDS in Black America” report lays out both the promise and the peril of the unique moment at which we’ve arrived in this epidemic.

“AIDS in America is a Black disease,” says Black AIDS Institute Executive Director Phill Wilson. – Photo: Black AIDS InstituteOn one hand, the historic election of Barack Obama and a congressional majority that has been more supportive of the AIDS fight offers great opportunity. Similarly, Black America is engaged in the struggle to end AIDS like never before. Together, these two realities could create real, lasting change in the course of this epidemic.

At the same time, 2008 witnessed great setbacks, particularly in the effort to prevent the virus’ spread. We are seeing the outcome of too many years of neglect, at both the governmental and community level.

The challenges we face

The 2009 “State of AIDS in Black America” report includes a chart pack, “The Black Epidemic: By the Numbers,” which details key data about the Black epidemic.

New infections: In 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its long-awaited study re-examining the size and depth of the U.S. epidemic. Using new technology that allows researchers to learn more detail about individual HIV infections, the CDC discovered, among other things:

• The U.S. epidemic is at least 40 percent larger than previously believed and growing by between 55,000 and 58,000 infections a year;

• Black Americans represented 45 percent of people newly infected in 2006, despite being just 13 percent of the population;

• Men who have sex with men accounted for 53 percent of all new infections in 2006, and young Black men were particularly hard hit.

Deaths: The racial disparity in AIDS deaths continued in data released last year:

• In 2006, the latest year for which data is available, 7,426 Black Americans died from AIDS. That number represents a meaningful improvement over the previous year – a decline of 1,253 deaths.

• But Blacks continue to represent a far outsized proportion of deaths each year. In 2006, Blacks accounted for just over half of all AIDS deaths.

Resources: The federal commitment to all areas of AIDS work – prevention, treatment and research – has all but disappeared.

• The CDC’s annual HIV-prevention budget has never topped $800 million – a fraction of what the U.S. spends on the Iraq war in a week;

• The prevention budget has been cut by 20 percent in the past five years, in real dollar terms;

• The CDC spent just under $369 million on Black-specific prevention and research in fiscal year 2008, or 49 percent of the overall budget.

• Between 2004 and 2008, the discretionary domestic AIDS budget remained virtually flat, while global spending increased by more than 20 percent annually.

The promise of a new era

While the challenges are great, Black America is perhaps better poised to meet them today than ever before.

The new Obama administration has vowed to take action on several fronts, including drafting America’s first comprehensive strategy to direct our efforts. But just as crucial, our community is engaged like never before. From individuals on up to our traditional Black organizations, we’ve accepted the idea that this is our problem and we must find the solution.

In 2006, 16 traditional Black institutions launched the National Black AIDS Mobilization by signing on to the National Call to Action and Declaration of Commitment to End the AIDS Epidemic in Black America. The 16 institutions are not typical AIDS organizations. These groups, many of which have histories that span generations, were founded to meet a wide range of needs and concerns; they have now formally added AIDS to their work.

This report offers an update on the progress each group has made in fulfilling its pledge to act. Many of them have made great strides; others are just beginning their work. In all cases, far more resources and support are required from both public and private funders who seek to impact the AIDS epidemic.

To read the full report, go to Contact Black AIDS Institute, 1833 W. Eighth St., Ste. 200, Los Angeles, CA 90057, (213) 353-3610.