Reverend Al, Jesse and The Family Secret
About three weeks ago (August 24th) I caught the ABC Primetime Special 'Out of Control': AIDS in Black America (also known as the 'southside' here in the Malone Zone) and I've been pondering this posting since then. As y'all know, from time to time I will depart from my normal jibber-jabber to comment on community social issues of substance and this is one that needs a platform (despite the smallness of mine...).
The piece was an investigative study begun by the late ABC World News anchor Peter Jennings that went unfinished until now. It's was meant to mark the 25th anniversary of the first reported AIDS case and the report is actually a huge favor to the southside nation as it presents, in stark terms, how the AIDS crisis isn't just a pandemic on the African continent but, is now one of the most devestating afflictions effecting the southside community here in America. That fact alone is shocking, but you mix that news in with the fact that not one of our self proclaimed southside leaders (Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, blah, blah, blah) seems to feel the need to rally behind this issue and you see why ol Ty has to roll out his soapbox and stand on the corner...
First, the actual factuals reported in the piece:
- Blacks make up 13% of the US population, but account for over 50% of all new cases of HIV (eight time the rate of whites).
- Almost 70% of all newly diagnosed HIV-positive women in the US are black women
- Black women are 23 times more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS than white women
- *Heterosexual contact* is the overwhelming method of infection in black America
Blink those over for a few, y'all. 13% of the US population but 50% of all new cases of HIV!? Not sure I remember Jesse Jackson mentioning that the last time he boarded a plane for Africa to highlight the AIDS epidemic there. Matter of fact, I'm not sure I've ever heard Jesse Jackson mention this staggering statistic - Al either for that matter. Now just because I haven't heard them doesn't mean they haven't been talking about it but I'd expect if they were, they'd be getting some coverage (as they do for other political issues) and I haven't seen any to date. In fact, when ABC news commentator Terry Moran put the question to Jesse in the piece, the normally loquacious Jackson seemed befuddled and surprised at the information and (like others questioned in the piece about the AIDS crisis in *Black America*) tried to deflect attention back to the African AIDS crisis instead of staying on point and talking about what's going on here. I was looking for better. Similarly, American celebrities are more caught up in the overseas AIDS action rather than giving equal time to what's going on here at home. Don't get it twisted - I'm not trying to minimize what's going on over in Africa, which truly is a global crisis, but if we can't even take care of our own, how can we expect to take care of others?
So what's driving this epidemic within the southside nation? When you look at it, the ingredients to this deadly cocktail are pretty elementary. First you have a disproportionate number of black men in prison. Sex, as we've seen in Oz and Shawshank and heard about in graphic terms by HBO's 'Tossed Salad Man', is a rampant but unacknowledged recreation in lock up. Consequently, many men who go in non-HIV+ come back out HIV+. And since prisons don't officially admit that sex occurs within their walls, there's no comprehensive national testing, prevention, or treatment programs for inmates... Clearly those officials hail from the 'See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil' School of Careful Observation. For those fools I recommend hooking up some of those Aldo AIDS Awareness tags to pass around... I just dropped a few off for the niecey and nephew over the weekend, y'all.
Mix in the fact that southside homeys tend to sleep with multiple partners more then their non-southside peers and the fact that a subsegment of these homeys are creeping on the down low and any southside sister shorty who has unprotected sex with a new partner is literally playin' Russian Roulette with her life. Here I think a mandatory viewing of TLC's 'Waterfall' video is required for all involved (scene #2, y'all).
Finally fold in a dollop of intravenous drug use with no federal support for a needle exchange program (which has been proven to show that it reduces the spread of HIV/AIDS) and you have what we have now - a wildfire epidemic, in the southside community, in America. As I've said - if we can't take care of home, we damn sure can't take of Africa. Matter of fact, I'm willing to lend that motto for free to Jesse Jackson's American AIDS Initiative...whenever he finds the time to make it a national issue.
Jesse - you got my number, homey. Holler back to a brother. And Al? Homey, let's spend a little less time working that permanent and a little more time ringing the alarm bells for an issue that is truly life or death for the southside community. As for the rest of y'all - do yourself a favor and spend a little time checking out the article and the clips from the broadcast - the life you save may be your own...