White House Hosts Summit on Black Men and HIV
It's a signal the nation is finally getting serious about defeating the disease in its hardest-hit group.
Led by director of the Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes, the discussion kicked off with four of the nation's top doctors detailing the government's commitment to attacking AIDS on every level. Notable was the inclusion on the panel of Newton Kendig, assistant director of the Health Services Division at the Bureau of Prisons. With one in nine black men aged 20 to 34 behind bars, Kendig's presence was bittersweet: On the one hand, it's a shame African Americans have to include prison authorities when discussing their health; on the other, perhaps this means we're finally serious about defeating AIDS on all fronts and have decided that felons have a right to decent lives, too. George W. Bush's Targeted Capacity Expansion Program for Substance Abuse Treatment and HIV/AIDS Services sought to help "racial and ethnic minorities disproportionately impacted by the HIV/AIDS," but the legislation never directly mentioned assistance for prisoners and ex-cons.
Later, community leaders from universities, faith-based organizations and youth groups presented what individuals and local coalitions can do to help support national programs. Perhaps the most striking testimony was from David Malebranche, professor of medicine at Emory University, who said that one way to truly mitigate AIDS rates is by offering black men "ways to cope" with the racism--institutional and otherwise--that leads to self-destructive behaviors. "Racism isn't going away," he said. "I'm confident I'll never see a world in which it does. So we need to address the impact that has on our communities to move forward."
Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.