So Monday was the annual African-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Most of what that actually means is:
- Everyone running around telling Black people that all they need to do is “get tested” or “know your status.”
- A time honored favorite of bourgie Black folks’ idea of community organizing: The Prayer Breakfast.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. We will never test ourselves out of the epidemic. Yes, people should get tested. But “testing” Black people for diabetes, high blood pressure, breast cancer or any other disease we suffer disproportionately from. Testing is diagnostic, it is not prevention. Secondly, we should use this day as an opportunity to update people on where the science is, and how it has changed over the years. Many people, not just Black folks, are still operating with information from when we first got the anti-retroviral drugs, 1996.
No amount of church hats or sweet potato pancakes and mimosas will end the epidemic either. Especially since most of those prayer breakfasts are not praying for Black gay men, poor women, sex workers, drug users, prisoners, the homeless, and all the other people that many Black churches do not engage much less include–and who are the people in the Black community most likely to be HIV+, or otherwise impacted by the disease. While there are many churches who do some social justice work around HIV and other issues in the community, I think they are in the minority.
What would also be great is if we used African American HIV/AIDS Awareness day to actually mobilize people into action. What if people, me included, got off our asses and demanded the 6,000 people who are currently on waiting lists in their various states who have HIV, and cannot get treatment because they make too much money for Medicaid, and don’t have an AIDS diagnosis to get Medicare (some of the states with the highest numbers on their waiting lists also hppen to be states with large Black populations–Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North & South Carolina). These folks need ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) and states are cutting access due to the fiscal crisis happening with state budgets.
To me, “Awareness” does jack shit. Action at least has potential to create awareness, and also change material conditions.