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Race As A Four-Letter Word (A-I-D-S)

During the White House Meeting on Black Men and HIV (June 2, 2010), there were unfortunately few moments of clarity during the four hour discussion. The meeting, which featured participation from advocates, activists, and health professionals from across the country, seemed to flirt with purposeful and meaningful dialogue around the effects of racism, homophobia, and Faith on the HIV & AIDS epidemic among Black men. Seemingly reluctant or hesitant - or worse, disconnected - experts and professionals from the White House, Department of Health & Human Services, Center for Disease Control, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Prisons, and the DC Health Department didn't even say the word 'RACISM' until David Malebranche from Emory University dropped the "R" bomb more than two hours into the meeting.
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David Malebranche (left) and Rev. Edwin Saunders

When contemplating strategies, the mark is opportunity is often missed when considering the overall broken societal structure that puts men - Black and Latino, in particular - in a constant state of 'survival mode', grasping and scratching at anything to stay alive and breathing. It's not a coincidence that the men MOST affected AND infected are poor, undereducated, chronically homeless, victims and perpetrators of violent crimes, jobless, and mired in wars of substance abuse and mental illness.

As a Black heterosexual male, DC resident, and HIV positive since 1986, I have witnessed "discussions" about the deaths and dying of young Black men come and go over the years - many of these talks signify nothing and rarely translate to effective and sustainable strategies that save lives. Enough with the rhetoric, theorizing, and demonizing, this epidemic will not be defeated until we begin to address in a concrete, constructive, and measurable way the social factors that contribute. Failed (and failing) public school systems, absence of employment opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers, skyrocketing cost of living and housing for low income individuals and families... Whether you live in Memphis or Manhattan, Alameda County or Atlanta, the roads are paved with the dead dreams and dead bodies of young Black and Brown men and many in the community do not see constructive changes coming.

We know as Black and Latino men - part of a larger, broader, and infinitely diverse community - must take these conversations beyond the meeting rooms and conference calls and begin to make concrete steps to close the gaps in health disparities, as well as education and economical inequities. We must begin to close the gap in the participation and action disparities as well.


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Comments on Larry Bryant's blog entry "Race As A Four-Letter Word (A-I-D-S)"

One of my concerns when I heard that the meeting was happening was if anything would be accomplished…when looking at those that comprised the panels sadly to say my question or concern was addressed. Not to take anything away from what the gentlemen on the panels have brought to this fight historically, I will say that we are still watching these same people or representatives of these same people go into a room to discuss how we will address or end this epidemic and come out with no concrete solutions with the exception of when the next meeting will be. I think that it is time for real people to sit at the table that can perhaps offer real solutions to a very real problem with some very real expected outcomes to end this real epidemic. I agree with what you said 100% it is 2010 and we are still taking a band aid approach to solve a bullet wound problem. Sadly, you’ve not said anything that we don’t know already but have just chosen to ignore because it is simpler to appear to be hard at work than to actually be hard at work…everybody know that HIV/AIDS is simplimatic of a much larger sickness in our community and it is much easier to play at HIV/AIDS than to deal with the real problems.
Your commentary was on it and hopefully people will read it and act on it….

I agree with the sentiments expressed, but I would take the discussion further. To address a problem effectively one needs to go to the root or the source, hence when mention is made, if only in passing of the mental health issues that Black gay men have to contend, then it becomes clear that there is either an unwillingness or an inability to face these issues; there is no concrete, deliberate actions in process or public to address the mental health of Black gay men. It makes for better PR and grants can be written more easily for funding for HIV testing, prevention, condom distribution and the like, not to mention the abuses by many of the social service agencies obtaining funds purportedly to fight HIV and AIDS, but there is a veritable dearth in research, study and examination of the mental health issues of Black gay men. Please see my recent postings in the above URL, where as a precursor to a book on the issue, I'm addressing depression in Black gay men - how Black gay men, not only have to deal with the pressures and struggles of daily living as everyone else, especially if Black and male, but have to deal with stigma, discrimination, homophobia - overt, covert and internalized; Black gay men have to deal with self esteem, self worth, self confidence; many have to deal with the trauma of sexual abuse, mental or psychological abuse, physical abuse; many Black gay men are still living in mental prisons imposed by religion; and, yet no one is addressing these core issues in the society. Rather, attention and money is spent on the superficiality of HIV - rather than interventions to prevent young Black men contracting HIV and preventing the spread to others and to women.

That is an exceptional point, Antoine. As a middle aged white straight man living with HIV in suburbia I cannot relate to inner city black issues well. However the issue of depression in youth is paramount in HIV prevention. I can empathize with untreated depression and the destruction that can lead to. I believe that depression predisposes one to getting HIV via poor care of ones' self, which includes sexual health, and impulsivity.
Add in poverty and abuse/neglect and it is no wonder that HIV remains a problem among youth of color. Early depression screeening of youth should happen at all schools and appropriate funding for follow up be a priority.

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This page contains a single entry by Larry Bryant published on June 4, 2010 6:07 PM.

DC AIDS: Lost In A Sound Loop was the previous entry in this blog.

Closing The Book On Vienna, Looking Toward Challenges In DC is the next entry in this blog.

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