Back grey_arrow_rt.gif
Faces of HIV
  Feb 20th - 3:23pm
Gutter Shutter
When the HIV epidemic began some 20 years ago it was known as a gay, white man's disease, but the face of HIV has changed considerably since then. African-Americans make up 12 percent of the American population, but today half of Americans living with HIV are black. AIDS is the number one killer of African-Americans between 22 to 45 and the nation's capital has the highest rate of HIV infection in the country. Of D.C.'s residents, 60 percent are African-American.
So why has HIV become a much more black and brown disease?
When asked if being black means one is predisposed toward HIV, Marsha Martin, director of D.C's Administration for HIV Policy and Programs says, "That's not the case."
However, Cornelius Baker with the AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth and Families says there's something going on in the black community, "whether it's the poverty or it's that a smaller group of people is having sex with itself."
D.C Department of Health Director Gregg Pane says as far as he's concerned, "HIV is public enemy No. 1." One out of 20 District residents is estimated to have the virus and with D.C's population being predominantly black, it is the African-American population that is disproportionately affected.
AIDS is the No. 1 killer of African-American women who are between 21 and 34, and these women are contracting the disease primarily through heterosexual sex. Negotiating the use of condoms between men and women in the black community can be a complex issue. "Many black women don't feel they can negotiate for their safety," Baker says.
There's a stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. Patricia Nalls, founder of the Women's Collective in D.C., says many black women "live in households where no one knows they're HIV-positive because they're afraid of the shame, the blame, the stigma."
President George Bush brought attention to HIV's affect on the black community in his State of the Union address in January, pledging that his administration will work toward ending the AIDS epidemic in the United States. But what are D.C officials doing to reduce the numbers of HIV-positive people in the city? For one, Marsha Martin says her agency, the Administration for HIV Policy and Programs, needs to offer "straight talk" in communities "that haven't gotten the message yet."
"I caught HIV from a preacher'
11:00 PM CST on Sunday, February 19, 2006
Getting married is every girl's dream.
But, meeting Mr. Right turned out to be Mr. Wrong for one Dallas woman.
In fact, she has a warning... she says marriage doesn't exempt you from the AIDS virus.
No woman should walk down the aisle before seeing this.
Spending time with the Lord is more healing than time itself for Edith Lang. She's been HIV positive for eight years. Faith prevents her from asking 'why me?'
"You know I wasn't in the streets, I wasn't shooting up drugs, I wasn't sharing needles, I was in church."
What better place she thought to meet her future husband. Edith would sing songs.
Her husband would beat the drums, and he played another role.
"So, why did I need to be educated about HIV and Aids...he was a preacher...he's going to tell me the truth...I thought. But a year later I found out he didn't tell me everything."
During Edith's first year of marriage, she would put her wedding vows to the test.
"Actually, it all came out because he got sick...he got sick and he started losing a lot of weight."
She learned her husband had full blown AIDS, a blow in itself...but not as explosive as the most important detail in the marriage he left out....that he was HIV positive a decade before they met.
"Actually, I lost my mind at that moment, my mind snapped and the only thought I had was to kill him, call the police and tell them what I had done."
Edith is now divorced and says her relationship with God makes it possible to deal with all of her ex-husband's secrets.
"I said so you slept with men in your past and that startled him and he was weak during that time...and he kind of sat up and said how did you find that out like I still didn't want you to know that."
Edith wonders if she would be taking her HIV medication to this day...had she asked more questions.
"The home boy that is coming over just may not be the home boy. They may not be playing football, they may be other things that they're doing...they may be doing the same things you're doing with him."
Edith can only bring herself right now to trust God...she hasn't been on a date since her ex did the unthinkable.
"And, at that time I was like why would you try to kill me, how could you try to kill someone you profess to love."
In 2002, HIV and AIDS was among the top four causes of death for African-American women aged 25 to 54.
"So, I'm taking the opportunity to enlighten women that just because you said 'I Do' doesn't mean you're safe."
Edith teaches couples to get HIV tests before marriage, she never did and she never would have believed at age 46 that this would be her mid-life crises.
  icon paper stack View Older Articles   Back to Top