In This Issue
It is hard to believe this is our last issue of the year. 2015 has been both an extremely challenging and inspirational year. In the United States we are having a new and complicated conversion about race in America and are begging the question “Do Black Lives Matter?” The Black AIDS Institute has tried to expand the discourse beyond police violence to also include the achievement gap between Black boys and other racial ethnic groups, unemployment rates among Black teens and, of course, HIV/AIDS health disparities. We believe that a Black Lives Matter discussion has to begin long before young Black men lie dead in our streets. Otherwise, the conversation is not about Black lives, it is about Black death.
On the global front, we are wrestling with terrorism, strife and pain in ways that we’ve not done before. With recent attacks in Paris—I was just a few blocks away from the restaurant where gunmen killed 19 people during the November 13th Paris attack—and San Bernardino, we have been pulled into a heightened conversation about freedom and freedom of religion and the challenges and dangers of religious persecution. We are forced to ask ourselves what the enemy really looks like and to challenge ourselves against knee-jerk reactions and deep-seated bigotry. The world has already seen how the story goes when we begin to scapegoat people based on religion. First we create registries, then we attack places of worship, then we limit travel, then we intern people. This does not end well. We cannot allow fear mongering to drive public policy. As Benjamin Franklin said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
In the HIV/AIDS world, we have seen tremendous advances and opportunities this year. The Black AIDS Institute and the Black AIDS Weekly have been relentless in our efforts to interrupt HIV transmission and acquisition and to educate our communities about access, utilization, benefits, challenges and the limitations of these new treatment and prevention tools. In particular, we have attempted to sound the alarm about the possible danger that these new advances can potentially exacerbate the already unacceptable levels of HIV/AIDS health disparities in our country. We have to be ever vigilant to make sure that all of our communities have access to all of the tools and all of the information available about how to use those tools. We cannot end the AIDS epidemic if Black people are left behind.
We thank and congratulate President Obama and Doug Brooks and the Office of National AIDS Policy for updating the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and providing the framework for the next phase on our fight to end the AIDS epidemic.
Our friend Ron Valdesseri is leaving HHS after a long and remarkable career. We want to thank and acknowledge the heroic work that he’s done within several administrations in the fight against HIV and AIDS and hepatitis. We wish him well and look forward to working with him in his new endeavors. As we close out the year, we would be remiss if we did not remind all of our readers that we are in the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The deadline for enrolling for 2016 is Sunday, January 31.
The CDC recently released new data about HIV among Black MSM. The data shows that while recent efforts are showing improvements, but we still have a long way to go. Clearly now is not the time to let up. If we are going to get the job done, we must keep the pressure on.
During the holiday season, the Institute is leading an HIV/AIDS health and culture delegation to Cuba. Please follow our adventure on Twitter and Facebook. We, of course, will run a full story on the trip when we return in the New Year.
Finally, our next issue of the Black AIDS Weekly will be published for National Black AIDS Awareness day (NBAAD) in February. During the month of January, we will publish a series of Black AIDS Institute Blogs. We are extremely proud of the work we have done with the Black AIDS Weekly over the last sixteen years. Over our hiatus, we will reach out to you to get feedback and guidance on changes we are planning for the Black AIDS Weekly. Until then, on behalf of the board and staff of the Black AIDS Institute and the Black AIDS Weekly team, we wish you a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year. Please take care of yourself and your blessings.
Yours in the Struggle