Wednesday, March 11, 2009

OU Gospel Choir performs at Fifth Street Baptist Church. It was for the Black Church Week of 
Prayer for the Healing of AIDS.

Deadly virus disproportionate to African Americans

The OU Gospel Choir performed at Fifth Street Baptist Church earlier this month for The Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. They called it the Soul Healing Musical. 

"The churches have agreed to do at least one sermon related to HIV throughout the year 2009," Terrainia Harris of Oklahoma State Department of Health. "So we are realizing this disease in our community. We are trying to do something about it."

Mark Knight, an outreach health educator for Guiding Right Inc., read a letter to the audience from a person who contracted by the HIV virus.

"Once I was diagnosed the feeling of hopelessness was overwhelming and destructive," Knight reads. "I wanted to die."

The person was happy that the community is coming together to aid people with HIV/AIDS. She also thinks it's a wonderful plan to involve the community in the plight of infected people with no hope left. 

Kai Dameron of RAIN Oklahoma read another letter which gave a different account on how the Oklahoma City dealt with people who contracted the HIV virus.  

"I was saddened by the horrible way my church treated my daughter after we told them that she was HIV positive, Dameron reads. "Many of the church members refused even sit near her. For my daughter it was like her second family had turned their back on her."

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the HIV/AIDS epidemic affects African Americans at an alarming rate. 

"In Oklahoma, African-Americans make up 7.6 percent of population, but make up 34 percent of new HIV cases," Amani Smiley of Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Additionally, as of December 2007, the 20-29 age group leads in HIV cases with over 35 percent in the state of Oklahoma. Knight argues that it is happening at a fast pace in Oklahoma. 

"We will be seeing an increase," Knight said. "In the last couple of years,  I think the majority of people that we have tested were under 30 that test positive. So we are actually on regular basis younger and younger people coming into our offices or getting referred to us for services that tested positive."

HIV/AIDS virus has been disproportionate to African American women. According to Black AIDS Institute, black women now account for 67 percent of all AIDS cases among African Americans. 

The rate is about the same with black women among all women.

"64 percent of all women infected with HIV are African American women," Knight said. "Why is that?" 

Avert, an HIV and AIDS charity group,  stated that HIV/AIDS virus is so severe to African Americans due to poverty, the lack of access to healthcare, racism and stigma, and prisoners infecting their female partners upon release. 

"If you do test HIV positive, your life is definitely not over," Knight said. "We have come such a long way in HIV treatment from back in the day til now."

Knight said that people with HIV had to take a lot of pills a day when the disease was discovered. Now the amount has gone do to one in most cases. 

The outreach teacher suggested that couples should go together to get tested because 90 percent of the time when a couple both tested positive, the man is the one who had HIV for the longest. 

"In any situation the only person that is going to look out and take care of you first is you," Knight said. "You can't be totally dependent, especially when you are talking about a sexually transmitted disease, that other person to be 100 percent with you."

There are a lot of solutions such as condoms and involvement from the government that would prevent the spreading of HIV/AIDS. Just today, Tennessee state representative Brenda Gilmore proposed a bill that would required HIV test for prisoners upon their release.

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