By Cleo Brown
My very first serious boyfriend bought me a beautiful blue necklace from Athens, Greece many years ago. I was fifteen years old. My boyfriend, named Gregg, had traveled to Europe with a very nice African-American man named Anderson whose sister had been an airline stewardess. She got them both passes on the airline for which she flew. Anderson, seemingly, had a good life. He was tall, dark, and handsome. He was intelligent. He eventually graduated with a Master’s Degree from Princeton, University in Theology and married a nice woman with whom he had a little boy. By the time that he was thirty years old, Anderson had his own Church with a considerable congregation. I, my old boyfriend, and my family who had become quite friendly with Anderson were all stunned, therefore, when in March of 1989 Anderson died from AIDS. “How could this happen” we all wondered. “Didn’t Anderson have the world by the tail?”
How many times have these sentiments been echoed throughout the African-American Community? Far too many times I am sure. For although HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death in The United States amongst all people ages twenty-five to forty-four by 1990 with 40,000 reported deaths in 1987; it remains as a huge killer of people from The African-American Community. Now, in 2009, HIV/AIDS is the fifth leading cause of death in The United States. With early detection and treatment of HIV/AIDS, however, its devastating effects need not be so severe.
HIV/AIDS is a disease caused by the human immunedeficiency virus in which the body’s ability to fight diseases is gradually destroyed. As of the year 2005, although African-Americans made up 13% of the population in The United States since 2000, 50% of the estimated 44, 198 new HIV/AIDS cases have been diagnosed amongst African-Americans. Of the 141 infants infected with the disease, 65% were African-Americans. And, of the almost 19,000 people under the age of twenty-five diagnosed with AIDS over 11,000 were African-American. Similarly, the rate of AIDS diagnosis for African-American Women was twenty-four times greater than that for White Women. Amongst Black Men the leading cause of transmitting the disease is sexual contact with another man followed by drug-use and “high-risk heterosexual contact.” For Black Women, however, the transmission of the disease most frequently occurs from “high-risk heterosexual contact.” Blood transfusions have, in the past, also been a cause of the transmission of the disease. Tennis Great Arthur Ashe contracted and died from the disease after receiving a blood transfusion with tainted blood. The virus is also transmitted from mother to child at birth or from breastfeeding the child.
Symptoms of HIV/AIDS occur in stages. Some people who become infected with HIV may seem perfectly healthy and manifest no symptoms for many years. They can, however, during this dormant period of time, infect other people. After exposure to the virus, however, it will take from 3 to 6 months to receive a positive HIV test. In infants diagnosis with a positive test will take fifteen months. Early symptoms of HIV/AIDS are: swelling of the lymph nodes, headache, fever, loss of appetite, sweating, and a sore throat. During the second stage of HIV/AIDS antibodies to HIV which tear down the body’s immune system can be detected in the bloodstream. Often, during this stage of HIV/AIDS, although depression is common the infected person will feel fine although the body is breaking down. Eventually, this infected person will contract Thrush, Herpes, Shingles, Pneumonia, and, Diarrhea.
Early detection of the HIV/AIDS Virus is key to controlling the spread of this infectious disease. The most common test to detect the HIV antibodies in the blood stream is a simple blood test called enzyme immunoassay or EIA. Home tests, which are based upon the blood from a finger-stick, are available in drugstores and pharmacies. With the proper medicine, diet, and exercise the disease can be controlled although not cured.
HIV/AIDS is a leading killer in the African-American Community not only because of the rate at which African-American people engage in sexual activities and participate in the drug culture but also because they are not using preventative measures which are available to them. Preventative measures to take, besides abstention from sexual activity and the cessation of drug use, is the use of condoms for men and sheaths for women. If you are a drug user, using clean needles to inject yourself with are imperative.
It has been said that when a person dies prematurely they touch the lives of nine other people. With this responsibility in mind be good not only to yourself, Your partner(s), your children, and your friends and family: use preventative measures when engaging in sexual activity and drug use. If you forget to engage in safe sex or share needles with a companion, have yourself tested as quickly as possible for early detection of the disease helps to curb the spread of the HIV/AIDS Virus and the break-down of the body’s antibodies. Make a difference in your community and help to check the spread of this devastating disease.
~Cleo Brown is a moderate Republican from New York City where she is both a freelance writer and Dean at a local GED program in Chelsea. She has been interviewed by New York Times and her columns will began to appears regularly this year on HipHopReublican.com