The information presented at this session was really nothing new.
We know that HIV infection rates in the U.S. have been underestimated for some time (DUH!) and that approximately 56,000 new infections occur in this country as opposed to the 40,000 that we once believed.
And we know that Black people continue to be disproportionately affected -- representing approx. 50% of Americans living with HIV/AIDS, approx. 40% of all new cases among men, approx. 60% of all new cases among women, and approx. 70% of all new cases among teens.
We also know that men who have sex with men bear the brunt of the disease in the U.S., with the most recent data suggesting a 46% prevalence rate among Black MSM.
There were, however, three defining moments within the midst of all the doom and gloom that gave me hope. The first was when Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said that of all the new data, she is most concerned about astounding rate of infection among young black men who have sex with men. Not only did she say this, but she vowed to put some political action behind addressing it. And, since she has a track record of putting her policy where her mouth is, I have absolute faith that she will be true to her word.
The second moment came when Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director for the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, declared that we must ensure that HIV/AIDS does not become a rite of passage for gay and bisexual men in the United States. It's sad that at this late stage of the game, after thousands of deaths and new infections, somebody who represents our federal government appears to finally get it. It's sad indeed, but a starting point that you can rest assured that I am going to run with and remind him of whenever I feel it necessary.
Last, but certainly not least, the silent but powerful protest that was orchestrated by CHAMP (which ironically began just as Dr. Fenton was beginning to speak) was the pitch that brought the boys on base home for me. As at least 50 or so protesters -- young and old, black and white, straight and gay -- marched through the session room carring big red "F's" and hand-made signs which read "the U.S. failed to fight AIDS, will Obama/McCain pass the test," I couldn't help but feel that I was in the midst of a turning point in our nations history.
There will be no more business as usual as it relates to the AIDS epidemic in the United States. And you better believe that I am 157% on board with the new agenda.
Where do you stand in this struggle?!
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