White House Summit Aims to Re-Energize HIV/AIDS Dialogue

White House Summit Aims to Re-Energize HIV/AIDS Dialogue

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In the face of a “staggering” HIV epidemic among black men, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy hosted a meeting to address the statistics this month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, black gay and bisexual men are the most heavily impacted in the black community.

“Part of the reason why it is so important to re-energize the dialogue is that frequently discussions of HIV among Black men have had the effect of casting blame without spreading knowledge of the factors that cause Black men to be at heightened risk,” according to a statement written by Gregorio Millett, senior policy advisor .”

To move forward, we need the public to have a deeper understanding of the complex issues that contribute to infections, and we need a more concentrated focus on solutions for supporting Black men and the other communities who bear a heavy burden of responding to HIV,” he said.

And it’s not only black men who face such sobering statistics about the disease, said C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. Black women make up as much as 66 percent of all new cases of infection and the media has been all but silent on the devastation, she said.

NBLCA encourages outreach from a cross-section of leaders from various areas, including clergy, health care providers, elected officials and people living with HIV/AIDS to create awareness and discussion. The agency participated in a summit last October that brought those leaders together to discuss the impact of the disease on black women and how it can be prevented.

Last year, President Barack Obama extended the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment to ensure access to needed HIV/AIDS care and treatment.

In February of this year, the National Black Clergy for the Elimination of AIDS Act was introduced in the Senate. Key provisions of the bill include strengthening HIV/AIDS education, providing affordable access to care to African Americans and children and helping at-risk youth. The NBLCA was instrumental in crafting the legislation, which emerged from a 2007 summit it hosted.

Fields said the recent bout of silence and complacency within the black community is dangerous and more has to be done to eliminate the stigma of the disease and encourage prevention.

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