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. End The Black AIDS Plague

"The truth is that HIV is not color-blind. Nor does it discriminate based on where or how you grew up, how much money or education you have, your age or community status. It affects all people from all walks of life; white and blue collar workers, educators and students, children and grandmothers, married couples and those living alternative lifestyles. Anyone can be at risk. As a black woman, a physician and a human being, I am alarmed at the many African-American men, women and young people who come into my office oblivious to the very real threat of HIV infection."
by Judith Lightfoot
UPI Outside View Commentator
Voorhees (UPI) N.J., Feb. 16, 2007
African-American medical and political leaders gathered this week in Philadelphia to turn the national spotlight on the growing impact of HIV/AIDS on the black community; the attention is urgently needed. AIDS has become a disease that hits African-Americans with particular force. Recent data suggest that blacks comprise half of those living with HIV in the United States but only 13 percent of the country's population.

We need to ask ourselves, as a community, why is this occurring?

During the national conference, we hoped to identify solutions to help our community take action against HIV/AIDS. We must realize that as our population grows and diversifies, we too must change. If we are not proactive in adapting our strategies against the epidemic, then ignorance, denial and fear will become a lethal combination.

Why are we African-Americans so vulnerable to HIV/AIDS?

Institutionalized disparities such as poverty, lack of medical insurance and access to healthcare, inadequate housing, the shockingly high rate of incarceration among African-Americans and the substance abuse epidemic play a big role. Certain stereotypes and cultural beliefs within our own community also perpetuate the spread of HIV, including the misconception that the virus can only be transmitted by IV drug use, homosexuality or men on the "down low," as opposed to heterosexual transmission.

The truth is that HIV is not color-blind. Nor does it discriminate based on where or how you grew up, how much money or education you have, your age or community status. It affects all people from all walks of life; white and blue collar workers, educators and students, children and grandmothers, married couples and those living alternative lifestyles. Anyone can be at risk.

As a black woman, a physician and a human being, I am alarmed at the many African-American men, women and young people who come into my office oblivious to the very real threat of HIV infection. Even in 2007, too many African-Americans have never been tested, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that all people between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested as part of their routine annual exams.

Today's HIV tests no longer require blood samples, provide results in minutes, and are usually free and available just about anywhere, no questions asked. Today's HIV treatments are also more convenient -- and effective -- than ever before. In fact, a 25-year-old who is diagnosed with HIV today and receives the proper drugs can expect to live for an average of 35 years or more.

HIV/AIDS is not a disease that anyone has to get, and we have the power to stop its spread in our community. Everyone needs to know their HIV status, and if they are negative, take advantage of protective barriers, know the status of their partners, and ask questions -- lots of them. If you are HIV-positive, there are services in your community that can help you free of charge if you have no insurance. Insurance companies cannot discriminate against you for being HIV-positive.

If you are reading this and you have not had an HIV test recently, take responsibility for yourself and learn your status. If you are sexually active -- I don't care if you are married, gay, straight or bisexual -- know your HIV status. This is a disease that could be attacking your immune system right now and you wouldn't even know it.

The time to act -- to know -- is now.

Dr. Judith Lightfoot is an infectious disease specialist at the Garden State Infectious Disease Associates in Voorhees, N.J., and head of the American College of Osteopathic Internists' Task Force on Minority Health and Cultural Competency. She was named one of the "Top Black Doctors" by The Network Journal, a resource for black professionals.

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Source: United Press International

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British Company In Bird Flu Outbreak May Cut Jobs
London (AFP) Feb 20, 2007
Around 500 workers at a poultry processing plant in eastern England hit by an outbreak of the potentially lethal H5N1 bird flu virus are at risk of being laid off, a trade union said Monday. Bernard Matthews, whose plant in Suffolk was hit by the virus two weeks ago, may have to fire workers at operations in neighbouring Norfolk, the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) said amid reports of declining sales.

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