35 years on, AIDS epidemic is forgotten, but not gone

AIDS epidemic

The AIDS epidemic is forgotten, not gone. So says doctor Carlos Del Rio in a PBS NewsHour report called the End of AIDS. Dr. Del Rio treats patients in Atlanta, where HIV/AIDS is thriving 35 years after the first published reports of the disease in 1981.

Today, AIDS in America (who has it, who doesn’t; who gets treatment; who gets sick) is a story of race (black and brown) and poverty. That’s because poor Americans of color are more vulnerable to social ills and less likely to benefit from the trickle-down of economics, education and better health care.

The AIDS epidemic: Third-World conditions exist here in America.

According to the NewsHour, a recent analysis by the CDC shows that if current trends persists, half of black gay and bisexual men living in the U.S. today will be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in their lifetime.

It’s not because black gay men are more promiscuous and less responsible than their white counterparts. In fact, repeated studies have proven otherwise. Black gay and bisexual men often have fewer partners, and use condoms more, according to Wendy Armstrong, medical director of the Ponce de Leon Center, a massive outpatient clinic for Atlanta’s HIV community.

The epidemic continues among black men because, for the most part, they lack the education, support and resources that make minorities and the poor more vulnerable to many of life’s pitfalls.

A black man is more likely to be killed by a cop in America, while a black gay man is more likely to die of HIV/AIDS in America.

In decades prior, we saw images of mostly white men dying of AIDS. Those scenes are still happening, but they’re happening to mostly black and brown men, so the image keepers keep the images to themselves, instead sharing images of mostly white, mostly gay, mostly healthy men living happily with AIDS.

Oh, what an incomplete picture.

It’s not much different than telling the world, America has overcome its racially-charged past by electing the first black president, but omitting the fact a good chunk of white America believes President Obama is a Muslim from Kenya and has been treating him as bad or worse than they treated Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in baseball almost 70 years ago.

It’s not much different than telling the world, America is a great democracy, but omitting the fact that voter suppression of black and brown people is still going on, 50 years after the Voting Rights Act passed.

It’s not much different than telling the world, America has a great system of justice, but omitting the fact that America houses more prisoners then the rest of the world combined, and most of those prisoners are black and brown.

It’s not much different than telling the world, America has a great healthcare system, but omitting the fact that Americans are still dying of AIDS, not because science and medical research is still grappling with how to prevent the disease, because America does not care about the health of black and brown, mostly gay men, still dying from, still being infected with, still being affected by AIDS.

The AIDS epidemic is forgotten, not gone. It’s yet another brush stroke that paints a very clear picture that America is not the greatest country on earth for everyone.