New statistics released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on the state of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. have revealed what the communities being ravaged by them already knew: that the situation is much worse than older statistics showed.
In their report, the estimate of 40,000 new HIV infections per year was thrown out and replaced by a number almost 50 percent higher. In 2006, the CDC estimates that there were 56,000 new infections, and that half the number of active infections are comprised of men who have sex with men.
These are statistics, many hope, that will finally set off an alarm in the minds of government officials who have seen only what HIV/AIDS are doing overseas, ignoring the issue in their own backyards.
Not only that, but the CDC added that the number has likely been that high for years without recognition, and is just coming to light now due to better testing and statistical methods – not a worsening epidemic.
But don’t wipe your hands clean yet, politicians. “Not worsening” doesn’t come anywhere close to “improving.” And if anyone thinks that displacing the blame for rising numbers on statistical methods or testing is a sufficient solution, they should try saying that with a straight face to someone living with the disease. Someone who watches their government funnel money into other countries to fight AIDS while HIV-positive people in the U.S. are dying and going homeless and without treatment.
It’s no wonder that people in the black and gay communities say that the problem is that many of these people do not have enough of a sense of self worth to help themselves or prevent others from becoming infected. How can they be open about their status and get tested when their governments and leaders are telling them that they are not important? Why is there no extensive prevention and treatment plan for the U.S.?
There is no question as to the level of concern from within the communities affected. It is overwhelmingly present, especially from the gay community – as shown from the recent Hotter Than July events.
The question is why that concern is hitting a glass ceiling that stays far below the eyes and pocketbooks of elected officials.
The answer is complicated and unclear, but it starts with voices. The black and gay communities have no problem speaking out about HIV/AIDS, but the problem is those speeches are often given amongst those who already know how horrible the situation is and who empathize with the plight of those with HIV/AIDS. Support from within the community is good and it’s comforting, but it’s a lot harder and a lot more important to speak to those who don’t already know and who may not already care.
It’s not enough to think that these new statistics will prove our point to the government and aid will begin to be doled out in the U.S. The government needs to know that the public cares – and cares deeply – about an issue, or it won’t be addressed.
We need to elect leaders who care about HIV at home for change to occur and educate those who don’t know so that the people who are making decisions about funding for HIV/AIDS can provide money where money is needed. It’s up to us to tell them.
The time has come where the statistics cannot be ignored, either by groups heavily affected by HIV or those who see it as a distant tragedy. It’s a reality for everyone, whether it’s because you’re paying taxes for health care and funding, or because you’re living with HIV.
Caring about the issue isn’t enough anymore. We, and the officials we elect to office, need to take action at home.