Businesswoman Sheila Johnson, Executive Producer 'The Other City'; and Phil Wilson, The Black Aids Institute (photo: Ann Ragland)

 

* In the United States, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a health crisis for African Americans. Blacks make up 12% of the US population. However, African Americans accounted for 45% of new HIV infections and 46% of those living with HIV.

The Black AIDS Institute took a media delegation to the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) in Vienna, Austria from July 18 -23, 2010. The Institute has taken a media delegation to each of the past six International AIDS Conferences. This year’s delegation includes 13 black journalists representing media outlets such as The New York Times, Essence, Glamour, Fox News, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, AOL Black Voices,  and others. This seasoned group of journalists is dedicated to educate, inform, and produce aggressive, thorough coverage of HIV/AIDS issues in the Black community

Glenn Ellis

The journalists held a Black Media Roundtable meeting top U.S. health officials including Dr. Helene Gayle, the head of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, discussed and answered questions around the science, treatment and policy issues impacting Blacks and HIV/AIDS in the U.S..

In a groundbreaking study from South Africa, a gel made using an antiretroviral drug was found to be effective in reducing a woman’s risk of becoming infected with HIV. This is the first time in history that this kind of topical medication, known as a microbicide, has worked, despite many earlier trials. The research broke yesterday at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna and is widely believed to be the biggest news that will come out of the 6-day event.

Other highlights include, the release of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study titled “Communities in Crisis: Is There a Generalized HIV Epidemic in Impoverished Urban Areas of the United States.” The study is the third in a series of the CDC’s rotating surveillance reports conducted to better understand America’s HIV epidemic. Previous studies looked at HIV among gay and bisexual men (MSM) and intravenous drug users (IDUs). This research included Black, Latino and White (non-IDU) heterosexuals in 23 cities, living in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by both poverty and HIV. Seventy-seven percent of the participants were Black, 15 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were White and 3 percent represented other races.

The study concluded that poverty is a greater factor in urban HIV/AIDS than race. The results of the study made many feel that Blacks would be further marginalized in terms of policy and funding.

Phil Wilson, CEO/President of The Black AIDS Institute, issued a statement in response.  “ The study tells us that when other racial ethnic groups face the same social determinants of health as Blacks–the social and economic conditions within which they live and that impact their well being–their HIV rates rise to similar levels as those of Blacks, even for Whites, whose rate of infection is normally substantially lower than rates for both Blacks and Latinos.”

With a special rancor reserved for the U.S. and president Barack Obama, hundreds of AIDS activists and people living with AIDS marched en masse through the Messe Wien conference center at the start of the conference (AIDS 2010) in Vienna, Austria, demanding more money for AIDS funding.

Amid shouts of “Obama lied, millions die!” and “Keep your promise, we want to live!” throngs of protesters from around the world snaked through the conference center giving vibrant color and sound to an otherwise quiet and peaceful environment.

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheila Crump Johnson  recently produced a documentary about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington D.C. called The Other City.

When asked what prompted her to do the film, Johnson replied, “ I was traveling all over the world to Third-World countries, and seeing the devastation of HIV/AIDS. One day, after a trip to Rwanda, I came back to D.C., and realized that D.C. was as bad as any country I had been in.” Johnson is looking to see the film not only in theaters and television, but developed as part of curriculum for teachers, parents and students.

The next conference will be in 2012, and for the first time, it will be in the United States…ironically in Washington, D.C.

Glenn Ellis lectures and is an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics, including health education and health promotion.

For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com