We’re the Ones

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waitingIn this report, our third annual update on the State of AIDS in Black America, we lay out both the highs and the lows of our national and our communal response to the face of AIDS.

We’ve attempted to paint an honest picture of what AIDS in Black America is like today—the good, the bad and the ugly. That means not pulling punches on policymakers. But it means not pulling them on ourselves either. We love, respect and support the organizations discussed in this report, but we’ve not given anyone a pass.

Ultimately, our review of the State of AIDS in Black America today left us with a clear conclusion: While we’ve come a long way in dealing with the epidemic, we are not near where we need be to end it once and for all.

That reality is painfully evident as you turn through this report. We open with a chartbook laying out the dimensions of the problem in clear, cold numbers. Don’t just read these charts once. Clip them, post them, carry them with you and use them as a resource for getting the startling message out in your community.

The report then explores the latest initiatives, challenges and failures of our national response to the epidemic, first focusing on prevention and then on treatment. Here, Katrina’s themes echo most loudly: The levees that are America’s HIV health delivery systems are broken—and the rebuilding has been devastatingly slow in coming.

The good news is that the sleeping giant of traditional Black institutions, from faith and civil rights to elected officials, media, the arts and entertainment, have taken notice and, in some cases, made impressive commitments. With their membership and chapters, conferences, conventions, and various communication vehicles, they could change the AIDS landscape in no time.

The bad news is most traditionally Black institutions are not yet ready to respond to Bond’s eloquent call to action.

Last August, 25 Black leaders, led by the Black AIDS Institute, the Balm in Gilead and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, launched the national Black AIDS Mobilization with the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic in five years. The final section of this report—which will be a new dimension of our annual update—reviews the state of the movement we’ve launched.

The reality it describes is that, even with our awakened awareness and new commitment, we still don’t have the one thing that will truly end the AIDS epidemic in our communities: a national, coordinated, mass movement. While there are many examples of meaningful individualized efforts, they remain sporadic and haphazard. None of our national Black institutions have developed a strategic action plan for ending AIDS, either in their individual work or as a collective.

There are many reasons why Black institutions have not yet delivered the sort of detailed plans needed to seriously pursue ending AIDS in our community. One reason is certainly both benign and malicious neglect on the part of governments, corporations and foundations that have done little to provide traditional Black institutions with the resources they need to do the job. No institution in Black America has received the sort of government, corporation or foundation support that AIDS organizations serving white gay men found in the mid-1980s and early 1990s.

Having said that, it still comes down to us. Corporations, governments and foundations could and should do more. But if they don’t, we still have to find a way to end this epidemic. Ultimately, the white gay community rallied to demand the resources it needed—both from within and from outside of its own ranks. We must also understand that government can’t write our national plan. Corporations can’t build a groundswell in our communities. Foundations can’t make those most at-risk for HIV/AIDS feel welcome in our communities. We have to do that.

We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for.

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