Monday, November 30, 2015

#WAD2015 - Living While Black & HIV Positive

As an activist in many areas that range from the fight to end the criminalization of Blackness to SGL-BT/LGBT rights, I notice the intentional and unintentional forms of erasure that takes place. Many times we are in the heat of the moment. shouting #SayHerName, #BlackLivesMatter with a list of names that are all too often the reminder of why we fight in the first place.

In that heat of the moment (as I stated in Spectre) "we are deconstructing and dismantling a system of racism and White supremacy. We start with the police violence on Blackness, and work into other areas that have been very problematic in terms of criminalizing Blackness, perpetuating misogyny, limiting access to quality education, financial stability, access to proper health care and a host of others." The picture that you see to the left/above depicts me at an event centering Black women and lifting up the injustice behind the death of our fallen sister Sandra Bland.

The picture is important to note, as it was a very obvious attempt to remind activists to be mindful of the intersectionality that makes us who we are. It was intended to highlight HIV awareness and acknowledgement of the existence of the Black queer, and our part in this movement for Black lives. I wrote about the experience of being Black and HIV Positive in a piece for The Body, Reflections on HIV and Privilege From a Conference of People With HIV:

"HIV does not discriminate when it attacks its host; it is the system of privilege and socialized systems of belief that makes HIV insidious. When settings like this exist, and are conducive enough for people not to front-stage or hold back about their authentic experience, the truth about how they view the care they receive versus someone of a different race or gender can emerge. Take me for example: I am a black man who happens to be out gay and atheist. I also happen to be HIV positive with very-little-to-no income. My socioeconomic status requires me to seek services like Ryan White and ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) in order to take care of my health. In general, health care is what comes to mind, and that is the furthest from the truth. I had an experience, where I went to ask for rental assistance under HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS) and got turned away, only to see my White counterparts get much better help in the process. This is not all due to White privilege, but that particular privilege plays a major role in how folks receive various services."

According to the CDC:

    • African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV.
    • The rate of new HIV infection in African Americans is 8 times that of whites based on population size.
    • Gay and bisexual men account for most new infections among African Americans; young gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 are the most affected of this group.

  • African Americans accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years or older) in 2010, despite representing only 12% of the US population; considering the smaller size of the African American population in the United States, this represents a population rate that is 8 times that of whites overall.
  • In 2010, men accounted for 70% (14,700) of the estimated 20,900 new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American men (103.6/100,000 population) was 7 times that of white men, twice that of Latino men, and nearly 3 times that of African American women.
  • In 2010, African American gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men**b represented an estimated 72% (10,600) of new infections among all African American men and 36% of an estimated 29,800 new HIV infections among all gay and bisexual men. More new HIV infections (4,800) occurred among young African American gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24) than any other subgroup of gay and bisexual men.
  • In 2010, African American women accounted for 6,100 (29%) of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. This number represents a decrease of 21% since 2008. Most new HIV infections among African American women (87%; 5,300) are attributed to heterosexual contact.c The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American women (38.1/100,000 population) was 20 times that of white women and almost 5 times that of Hispanic/Latino women.d
** Referred to as gay and bisexual men in this fact sheet.

Estimates of New HIV Infections in the United States for the Most-Affected Subpopulations, 2010
African Americans fact sheet: Chart of the estimates of new HIV infections in the US for most affected subpopulations, 2010. 11,200 among White MSM; 10,600 among Black MSM; 6,700 among Hispanic/Latino MSM; 5,300 among Black Heterosexual Women; 2,700 among Black Heterosexual Men; 1,300 among White Heterosexual Women; 1,200 among Hispanic/Latino Heterosexual Women; 1,100 among Black Male IDUs.

Source: CDC. Estimated HIV incidence among adults and adolescents in the United States, 2007–2010. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2012;17(4). Subpopulations representing 2% or less are not reflected in this chart. Abbreviations: MSM, men who have sex with men; IDU, injection drug user.

HIV and AIDS Diagnosese and Deaths

  • At some point in their lifetimes, an estimated 1 in 16 African American men and 1 in 32 African American women will be diagnosed with HIV infection.
  • In 2012, African Americans had the largest percentage (47%) of the estimated 47,989 diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States.
  • In 2012, an estimated 14,102 African Americans were diagnosed with HIV infection ever classified as stage 3 (AIDS) in the United States.
  • By the end of 2011, an estimated 265,812 African Americans diagnosed with HIV infection ever classified as stage 3 (AIDS) had died in the United States.

To be honest, when dealing with HIV outside and within the Black community, stigma has a stronghold. The lack of HIV 101 plays a large part in why stigma is such a huge issue, it is saddening. It is one of the reasons that came out of the HIV closet, which was for everyone who has been ostracized and made to feel nasty.  While many of us who have HIV are healthier than most out in the general population, Black gay men die at a higher rate from HIV than those who are in the group where HIV infection is actually the highest. Now think about how the Black heterosexual community is affected, especially Black women. People living with HIV not nasty people, we are not contagious, we are doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers! Yes, we are HIV positive and we live a healthy life, We are human beings and we exist. The data showing how HIV affects the Black community is staggering. In a publication called HIV/AIDS Inequality: Structural Barriers to Prevention, Treatment, and Care in Communities of Color many of the issues that I have pointed out, such as Residential segregation and housing discrimination, Education, Criminal justice (including HIV exposure laws) and much more.

HIV - stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.

AIDS - HIV disease becomes AIDS when your immune system is seriously damaged. If you have less than 200 CD4+ cells or if your CD4 percentage is less than 14%, you have AIDS.

TRANSMISSION - Only certain fluids—blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur. Mucous membranes can be found inside the rectum, the vagina, the opening of the penis, and the mouth.

In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by

Having sex with someone who has HIV. In general:
- Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual behavior. Receptive anal sex (bottoming) is riskier than insertive anal sex (topping).

- Vaginal sex is the second highest-risk sexual behavior.
- Having multiple sex partners or having other sexually transmitted infections can increase the risk of infection through sex.
Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (works) used to prepare injection drugs with someone who has HIV.


- Seroconversion is the period of time during which HIV antibodies develop and become detectable.
- Seroconversion generally takes place within a few weeks of initial infection.
- It is often, but not always, accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever, rash, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms are not a reliable way to identify seroconversion or to diagnose HIV infection.

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