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CDC Locks Out Black Providers

By Phil Wilson NNPA Columnist | 4/4/2014, 12:55 p.m.

There is plenty of blame and finger-pointing to go around, but it all misses the point: No one can argue that, even though we have had some successes, we are failing in our fight to end the AIDS epidemic in Black communities. Indeed, in some areas we are losing ground where we had previously made progress.

Nearly 64 percent of newly diagnosed women, nearly 67 percent of newly diagnosed youths (ages 13-19) and 36 percent of newly diagnosed gay men and other men who have sex with men in America are Black. With nearly 50 percent of Black gay and bisexual men in some U.S. cities already infected, Black men who have sex with men may be the group most affected by HIV on the entire planet.

We have to ask ourselves, “Is it in the interest of ending the AIDS epidemic—and particularly of ending the epidemic in Black communities—to have a service delivery network that is void of Black providers?”

The CDC’s decision perpetuates the notion that “mainstream” TA providers can parachute in to rescue communities, and violates the notion that—when properly supported—communities have both the responsibility and the capacity to save themselves. As Calvin Rolark, the founder of the United Black Fund, said, “Nobody can save us . . . but us.”

Both the message and the messenger matter. Unless we are explicitly included, we are implicitly excluded. In order to end the AIDS epidemic in Black communities, the AIDS service-delivery system must reflect the communities most at risk. Unless Black people see themselves at every level of the care-delivery system and every point of the treatment cascade, we will continue to see the unacceptable HIV/AIDS outcomes that currently exist in Black communities.

(In the interest of disclosure, The Black AIDS Institute is a small subcontractor to one of the CDC grantees in this program.)