When it comes to health disparities among African Americans and other groups, the gaps are often glaring – specifically regarding HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. But the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA) hopes to change that by drawing attention to these disparities.
Last week at a special media session, the organization’s president and CEO C. Virginia Fields made that abundantly clear.
“The purpose of the event was to acquaint the media with the work of the organization and create awareness of the disproportionate impact of certain diseases including HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C have on African-Americans,” says Fields.
New research shows that:
* Approximately one in 16 Black men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime, as will one in 32 Black women.
* Among Blacks, men account for 70 percent of new HIV infections. Women account for 30 percent.
* Blacks are twice as likely to have ever been infected with the Hepatitis C virus than whites and other racial and ethnic groups.
* Death related to the Hepatitis C virus is almost double the rate for Black Americans compared with non-Hispanic white Americans.
Fields says NBLCA was formed in 1987 with the intent of calling attention to the stark facts. “It was started as a meeting, held in Long Island, to educate, motivate and empower Black leaders to address the health disparities in their respective communities. The issue was, and still is, that African Americans are dying at faster rates than other groups who are infected with these diseases. In attendance were Abyssinian Baptist Church’s Calvin Butts, the Urban League, and other community leaders. Out of that meeting the discussion grew into a larger discussion which is now the NBLCA,” she recalls.
Through their network of affiliates which include Detroit, Atlanta, DC, Baltimore, Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, the organization hopes to focus on capacity building, resource development and a broad outreach to clergy, media, medical professionals, and other consumers and providers of services so that testing is done. The cities mentioned above are counted among those that have the highest incidents of infection.
Melissa Baker, manager of special projects of NBLCA, agrees. “For the Black community, it’s important that Black media address these issues. You know the poem, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised?’ Same here. This issue needs to be “televised” – from our perspective. Mainstream media spews negativity whereas we offer options,” Baker asserts.
This Friday, July 25, 2014, NBLCA will host its second annual African American Hepatitis C Action Day, a community mobilization initiative aimed at reducing the high incidence of HCV infection in black communities by drawing attention to this neglected health disparity and promoting education, testing, and treatment.
It was launched last year in partnership with HARM Reduction Coalition and the Coalition on Positive Health Empowerment.
Fields says the day will largely be a campaign that focuses on the impact of the “stigma and discrimination” tied to these diseases.
“Overall, the key is to provide better healthcare for our communities,” adds Fields.