HIV/AIDS seems to often walk in the crosshairs of many of the inequalities and injustices of society.  I'm not always sure what to do about this.  Over the past few years, there has been an uptick in referring to HIV/AIDS as a "black" (vs. gay) disease here in the US.  Here's an example: http://www.thebody.com/content/art60587.html?wn.

When I worked in Wheaton, IL, there was one black church in town.  For years, this congregation did not want to be the target of HIV-education efforts from the county health department merely because it's a black church.  When it came to HIV-testing, the minister did join an event that included the mayor, other pastors, elected officials and town council members.  It was when there was a community-response, rather than a targeted response, that there was engagement.  So, I'm just not sure how efforts to paint HIV/AIDS as a black disease is really going to help overcome the stigma, especially when the #1 indicator of AIDS in the US (not HIV, but AIDS) is poverty, which brings into play early detection, access to treatment, education, etc.  

I really struggle with the identity issues, and how they sometimes blur the underlying issues, and cloud our ability to find not common ground, but common humanity.  

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Brad, I don't see anywhere in the article where the author or the people interviewed call HIV/AIDS a "black disease." It's talking about racism within the HIV/AIDS activist community, organizations and leaders. Which is real.

You might like this website I found http://www.greaterthanaids.org/ if you're interested in these issues.

Also, you might learn some things about identity politics and "color blindness" at the White Privilege Conference. Let me know more information if you want to know how to get the Quaker discount.

Thanks, Jeanne.  I am familiar with this website.  Good point that in this article in particular doesn't reference AIDS as a "black disease" per se, but there are countless articles, campaigns and organizations that talk about AIDS and the black community that gloss over the economic inequalities.  This is an example: http://aids-clinical-care.jwatch.org/cgi/content/full/2011/218/1?q=....  What this tends to do is not educate folks that HIV is spread through sexual networks having to do with behavior, not color.  What I see in DC is a double-message: HIV affects everyone, but in the marketing (i.e. billboards, print ads) its always a picture of two men together, or a black woman; rarely a white woman and NEVER a heterosexual white couple.  It is this stigma we have to overcome.  I know the isms are real in the HIV community (I've experienced them firsthand).  

 

Thanks for the invite.  March is our busy month here, though, so I can't make it.  

 

Brad

Well, one thing I know about power and oppression is that economic oppression is a huge aspect of it, but in my experience, many white people have a much easier time talking about economic inequality than talking about racial inequality, specifically the other three aspects of it: physical harm, emotional harm, and self-policing, which are big as well.

 

The conference is April 13-16, not March. How's your April? There will be local hospitality so you wouldn't have that expense. And a lot of Quakers are coming to this. I promise you, there is a big GLBT component to this conference, including a GLBT caucus, and HIV/AIDS is discussed for sure.

 

I share your frustration about a lack of interest in discussing issues of social class (I have a blog on that very topic, Quakers & social class)--I just want to know how much of the problem at hand (right now it's HIV/AIDS, but in other situations too) is economic and how much is race not because there's nothing wrong with an approach that targets the African American community (targeting them does get a huge chunk of the least privileged in our society), but that we miss opportunities to build on all of our shared goals by joining together all people of all colors who are economically oppressed, to make white poor and working class people into allies to people of color. The thing is, talking about social class *is* talking about people of color and vice versa. It's just that the venn diagram of those two issues are not completely congruent.

 

You say: "What this tends to do is not educate folks that HIV is spread through sexual networks having to do with behavior, not color."

 

And yet when I go to the link you shared with me, again, the very first thing I see is: " High-risk sexual behavior continues to be the primary driver."  The study seems to be *sampling* African Americans but found that "sexual networks" is still the primary way it is spread. I don't read the study and see them calling it a "black disease."

 

It makes sense to me that you'd see those billboards in DC, which is overwhelmingly African American. I'd be much more concerned about billboards with only white people, which what used to happen, which is still the image of HIV/AIDS for most of this country because that's most of what we see on television. Just the other day I saw an episode of "What Would You Do" where actors are put in situations to see how the public would respond and the actor playing someone with HIV actually was HIV+. And he was white. So I'm not seeing the "stigma" you're talking about.

 

Jeanne

 

I'm not sure why you say DC is "overwhelmingly" African American.  It's a very diverse culture and, when you throw in the people that work in DC but live in VA and MD, it's even more diverse.  To market to this broad spectrum just gay men or black people as the ones to be concerned about HIV belies what is really going on.  According to an epidemiologist in Chicago I know, the rates of people with HIV who do not identify as risk is "soaring".  In DuPage County, IL and other suburban counties around major cities, health departments are being told by state overseers to turn away people who do not fit the "risk profile", but in DuPage county, over 50% of the new diagnoses last year did not fit this risk profile.  This is the stigma being played out.  It's a collective denial.  You may not see it, but I do in many ways.
It's sad. I read Brad Ogilvie's bio blurb at William Penn House and he not only seems like he might know something about what he's talking about on this topic, but that he is just the sort of Friend whose entries should be welcome here in this forum. Yet somehow he doesn't seem to actually be welcome . . .

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