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If it Were White Men?

By on July 14, 2013

In disturbing yet un-surprising news, black men continue to be over-represented in new HIV infections, to the tune of about 50,000 per year over the past decade according to federal officials. Referring to the epidemic as “detrimental” to gay men, federal health officials also cite exploding rates of new infection in young black men. But ask yourself, what if we were talking about white women?

Critics and independent public health leaders have said that the government prevention policy is extremely ineffective. And obviously current budget cuts do not help the cause.  Some researchers have publicly maintained that it is impossible to eradicate a fatal, inherently incurable disease that is transmitted through sex. Social stigma is also a barrier to frequent testing for all groups.

Epidemiologists for the CDC said that the U.S. saw 130,000 new cases per year in the 1980s. The rate slowly decreased during the 1990s and became flat at 50,000 new cases per year around 2000.

If ever there was a wake-up call for black men and their allies it is now. Consider that black males have the shortest life span of all racial or ethnic groups in the nation — a fact that has remained unchanged for at least the past 100 years. In fact, black men have the highest overall mortality rate across all geographic regions in the U.S. and across all age groups from birth to age 84, with the widest racial gaps in mortality occurring in the prime adult years, ages 25-54. In addition to over-representation in prison, under-representation in higher education, black males have long required a more sophisticated public health intervention response from our federal agencies.  Today, the average American can expect to live 5 years longer than a Palestinian—unless that American is a black male, in which case he can expect to die three years sooner.

If these astonishing facts were applied to white women, one has to wonder if health disparities would be allowed to be so pervasive. Consider the federal government has overseen widening gaps in health outcomes for black males vs. white males dating back to the 1960’s. Consider Tuskegee? Consider that more black males are incarcerated or under supervision of the penal system (e.g. probation, parole, etc.) than in graduate school. Now what if we were discussing white women, would there be more targeted programs, more funding, more political intervention?

HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) are preventable. Talk to your sexual partners about their HIV status, get an HIV test, use condoms, and consider abstaining from sexual intercourse if you have doubts. Just because you were sexually active on Wednesday, doesn’t mean you have to be on Thursday. Men and women have the right to refuse sex anytime, anywhere. Contact your local health department for resources on free condoms and places to get tested.


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  2. Deane

    August 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I get the point but I think the title asks the wrong question.

    If this epidemic were primarily effecting another people group, you know what would happen, they would organize and mobilize support for change. They would meet resistance, but they would keep on fighting because they believed in the cause. And finally, someone would change a definition in some obscure bill that would signal that people were finally coming around, and they would be energized and push harder, knowing that they could actually make the change. And little by little, 30 years later, someone would look back and say wow, I can’t imagine things were that bad for them 30 years ago.
    But it’s not another people group, it’s us. So the real question is, what if it were us? What would we be willing to do? What if we were willing to fight through all of the obstacles and make sure people heard us? What if we thought that we were valuable enough to protect, worthy of fighting for?

  3. Pingback: The Dr. Vibe Show: If It Were White Men?

  4. LittleBlackVillage

    September 2, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Thank you for writing this story. I think the issue of HIV in the black community has to be brought up and discussed much more often than it is currently being discussed. This story was a clever way of discussing the HIV issue, in a different light, which is often avoided in the black community. I get what you are trying to say, and it is a simple question for us to ponder on while using some known facts. If we were to use a totem pole for instants, to describe where everyone fit in matter of importance (funding and attention to issues) the white women would be on top then everyone else in their prospect spots and last black men at the bottom (at least this my interpretation). So, the question is; what if the white women had the same statistics and rate of infection as the black man? Well, keeping it simple, I think more money would be put to the prevention and perhaps finding a cure, it would be talked about more openly in and outside infected communities and more support between the infected and none infected communities would be seen.

  5. Jeannette

    August 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks for the article…
    This is a huge issue for our community, and we need to come together to find a way to address it. That said, I think that your premise is incorrect. Considering the war against women that is being waged in this country, if it were women, I’m not sure a big difference would be made. If you have missed it there is a war on women’s reproductive rights… a slew of laws have been enacted just this year to limit women’s access to abortion. Compare that to the laws that attempt to limit birth control, access to mammograms, financial assistance, access to equal pay, and laws that make it harder to obtain justice in cases of rape… I don’t think that it’s the issue of gender.

    I think that the issue is class. If this were rich and powerful black men? Then someone might be taking notice. If this were now just white men (who normally have more privilege and power), then it would be an issue. But I think you over simplify the issue with your premise. Sorry.

  6. LCC

    August 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I would say the point comes across quite well…it points out the facts of the disparities that exist…and then begs the question “what if it WERE white women?” It’s wonderful to be able to discuss these “touchy” topics in a civil and open forum…Thank you Walker. Look forward to reading more. I will say thanks for the statistics…I was ignorant to some of the stats presented…shame on me, but now I know. I learned something today.

  7. AntoineB

    August 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing the article. I read it and while I admired the overall intent and message you tried to convey, as one of those who commented on it said, you missed the mark and didn’t quite connect it to White women. Also, the final paragraph on HIV seemed disconnected from the rest of the article. As was said previously, the article only restated facts and statistics, without drawing any conclusions or showing any analysis, especially how these new numbers relate to, affect and what it contributes to the Black gay community.
    Hope this helps…

  8. Jay

    August 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    The article in my opinion is a simple statement of known facts so within the article there is nothing controversial. However, I was expecting something different from the article given the title. The article does not at all relate to the title. It is missing the comparison to how white women are treated or potentially would be treated if given a similar predicament. So with that respect you did miss the mark. Again the article (minus the title) says nothing controversial in my opinion just a simple statement (or restatement) of known facts.

  9. Staff Contributor

    August 10, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Thanks Marlon. It’s disturbing but I can understand that so many brothers have so many “strikes against them”— poverty, drugs, crime-ridden communities, unemployment, baby-mama drama, poor self esteem/self-worth…along with a society that BOTH elevates the black man via the election of Barack Obama and yet personally demonizes him to the point of reinforcing that black males are systematically de-valued even when you are president…all of this contributes to brothers wanting to just “not deal with another issue” and while it’s painful, it’s understandable from a mental stress perspective.

  10. JustMarlon

    August 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    “Just because you were sexually active on Wednesday, doesn’t mean you have to be on Thursday.” – I haven’t read truer words all day.
    I think another thing to consider, that goes hand in hand with the social stigma, is the fear of knowing. I’ve heard guys say “I haven’t been tested because I don’t want to know.” It’s completely irrational because the sooner an HIV+ status is known the sooner treatment can begin and the individual at least has a fighting chance.

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