Saturday, October 16, 2010

1 in 22 African Americans Will be Infected by HIV

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

More “good” news from the Center for Disease Control:  African Americans have a 1-in-22 chance of catching HIV in their lifetimes.  This is eight times the rate for white Americans.  Of course the numbers are no surprise, given that HIV is already spreading quite rapidly through our community.   This confirmation from the CDC is simply another depressing reminder of the risks of irresponsible sex.

Obviously, sex is as natural as breathing, given that it’s the reason we even exist in the first place.  But the power of sex must also be respected, and some of us grow up in a culture where casual sex is considered the norm and the pursuit of good sex is worthy of being a lifelong endeavor.  While I am certainly not here to judge, perhaps we should consider a few thoughts:

1) African Americans are less likely to be married than other folks, we know this.  This means that there are going to be more relationships during our lifetimes, with a higher than average number of sexual partners.  I don’t expect this to change soon, given that the high divorce rate in America, quite honestly, doesn’t make marriage seem all that enticing.  At the very least though, this new reality should be considered when we make our personal decisions.  What’s also true is that even married people aren’t always protected.

2) Doing something about the prison system might make a difference when it comes to our marriage and HIV rates.  First, letting go of our commitment to mass incarceration could open the door for women to have more available marriage partners.  Secondly, we might conjecture that prison rape plays a strong role in the rate of infection.  Finally, the marginalization of black men reduces the incentive to engage in responsible behavior.  Of course we should all be responsible, but that can be difficult for those who’ve been pushed out of the main stream of our society.  If a person feels they have nothing to live for, they become a threat to us all.

3) Obviously being protected is a must when having sex.  But some of us seem to think that we can do whatever freaky thing we want to do, as long as someone wears a condom.  I’m not sure if getting drunk with someone you just met at nine, and then risking your life by sharing your body with that person at midnight is such a good idea.  Getting to know people first might be an important part of the sexual process, and you MIGHT even want to find out their HIV status.  Unfortunately, many people have sex without ever asking that question, which is a wee bit dangerous.

Maybe we should teach ourselves and our kids to think about sex in a different way.  The old days of the married man having a few strippers in his closet are gone, because one hot night with the woman at the club might turn you into an instant serial killer.  The same is true for women who allow any man with a nice smile and a little money to have access to her womb.  We all know that both men and women keep their sexual secrets, but the secret has been released by the CDC:  The Black community is on high alert when it comes to HIV.


Dee said...

What a sad statistic this is, unfortunately I can't say that I'm surprised by this information. Some elements within our community are resistant to educating themselves on any level, much less when it applies to self control on a sexual level. In addition, our young people aren't being taught enough about self respect as it relates to their bodies & sexual expression. I've seen picture of teens in clubs practically having sex on the dance floors. The young men line up on the walls while waiting for any of the young women to come up to hump & grind on them. Apparently emulating strippers & whores (hoes if you prefer)is what's happening, and self respect is just not cool. Too many of our young people embrace the negative - it's not cool to be educated - it's not cool to be respectable - it's not cool to dress decently. Little do they comprehend that what's REALLY not cool is to be ignorant. We are failing our children and the cost of that is failure is too great to calculate.

Anonymous said...

"...First, letting go of "our" commitment to mass incarceration could open the door for women to have more available marriage partners."

Who is the "our" to which you refer in your comment, above?

Are you implying it the fault of and the responsiblity of Black people that mass incarceration exists? ~Hardly~

What is the Black community suupposed to do about mass incarceration?

I believe it is the result of a the profit-driven corporate industrial complex.

Unfortunately, it's an institution which exists, and in reality, Black people must learn to live within the confines of its cultural construct, or die.