Daily HIV/AIDS Report

Public Health & Education | At Conference, NIAID Director Discusses Early HIV Detection, Transmission Rates Among African Americans
[Feb 11, 2002]

     Providing treatment to HIV-positive pregnant women early in their pregnancies can "dramatically reduce" the risk of vertical HIV transmission, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Saturday at a Washington, D.C., conference sponsored by Howard University and a drug company, the AP/Augusta Chronicle reports (AP/Augusta Chronicle, 2/9). The conference was attended by pastors, church activists, educators and others in an effort to get black religious organizations more involved in HIV prevention (Goldstein, Washington Post, 2/10). Fauci said that early detection and treatment among pregnant women can cut the rate of vertical transmission to "less than 1%." He also spoke about the "changing nature" of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States, noting that a disproportionate number of HIV infections are occurring among blacks. Fauci said that black Americans have been infected with HIV at a rate that is 10 times higher than the rates among other ethnic groups (AP/Augusta Chronicle, 2/9). He said that while the black community has shown signs in recent years of "getting mobilized and shining a bright light on the problem," he urged the audience to "turn on the afterburners, because the leadership is going to have come from you."

Black Leaders Urged to Overcome Stigma
Other health officials, advocates and educators speaking at the conference also urged black religious groups to use their positions to raise HIV/AIDS awareness within the black community, the Washington Post reports. Conference panelists said that the failure among black churches and community groups to openly address HIV/AIDS has contributed to the rising rates of the disease among black Americans. "You've got to talk about these things, because the hard reality is that people are dying," Derrick Harkins, pastor of the District of Columbia's 19th Street Baptist Church, said, adding, "One of the biggest culprits in the African-American community has been silence. How can we act as if nothing is happening?" Tracy Pace, a Washington, D.C., social worker, said, "The black community is already stigmatized, and when you add a disease that's associated with sex, it's a taboo subject. The voice of the black church needs to be heard" (Washington Post, 2/10).

Awareness Day Events
Some black churches and other groups around the country planned events related to last week's observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.