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AIDS in America. Is it really an epidemic, or just another sexually transmitted disease?

Is it any more prevalent than herpes, gonorrhea or syphilis?

There’s still no cure for herpes but at least you don’t die from it.

There’s a cure for gonorrhea and syphilis, however, one can die from syphilis if not tested and treated in time.


After following the International AIDS Conference held in D.C. a few weeks ago and reading the information from our reporter, Rebecca Nuttall, who was there, it’s very clear that AIDS is no longer an epidemic or in most cases no longer a death warrant like it was during the late 20th Century.

According to the Federal Drug Administration there are 50,000 new HIV/AIDS cases in the United States each year. However, in Allegheny County there were only 50 new HIV/AIDS cases in 2010 and only four deaths.

I’m still trying to understand why there aren’t up to date numbers on something that is as important as HIV/AIDS. Why are we dealing with numbers almost two years old? There should be up to date, and I mean, up to last month numbers available on something as important as HIV/AIDS and how many were Blacks.

Epidemic definition is “an outbreak of a disease that spreads more quickly and more extensively among a group of people than would normally be expected.”

During the early ‘80s AIDS was a death sentence to anyone who caught it, and most of the people were White male homosexuals. Then at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century it spread to Africa like a wild fire, but in most countries it has been brought under control to a certain degree, but especially in America. Then it moved from White males, from Africa back to becoming, at least we were told, an epidemic among young Blacks in this country. And within the past few years, young Black women are the most at risk.

How do we prevent this disease from spreading? Well the best way is just don’t have sex, and avoid long extensive kisses in the mouth. Or wait until you are married then stick with your husband or wife, no outside affairs. But we all know that’s not going to happen in 90 percent of the population. So what the HIV/AIDS people are saying is you must get tested, but little else.

There are no symptoms they say, so you must be tested. I say there must be more. There must be alternatives, because what if I get tested in July and get infected in October. I’m thinking I’m OK, but end up dying from the disease even though I’ve been tested, because nobody is going to get tested every time they have sex.

First I need to clarify one thing. HIV and AIDS are not the same. People do not die from HIV infections, they die when it evolves into AIDS. If one goes untested or does not know they have it because there are no symptoms, then it only takes a few months to become AIDS. If it’s detected in time there is a series of drugs that can be used that will keep you alive. Now the Clinton Report says the cost yearly is around $200, down from $10,000 during the 1980s. I don’t believe this. There’s no way a series of drugs in this country is going to cost less than $20 a month for any disease.

There has been great strides made in finding treatments for HIV/AIDS that prevents death, but the FDA approval of Truvada, which has been used for years, reduces the risk of AIDS by 75 percent. Not a cure for all but close to it.

My question is how many of us have been tested? How many of us have our teenagers or young adult children living with us tested? Where can you go to be tested in private? Why aren’t more of our primary care doctors testing for AIDS, and if they did would the major Health Insurers pay for it?

Like everything negative, it appears to affect Blacks more, so we in the Black community must come up with more creative and affective ways to stop AIDS in our community. We must also demand more and clearer information from the AIDS groups out there giving us percentages of Blacks affected, and saying that testing is the only way to stop AIDS.

My suggestion is for the churches to become more involved and not by just saying we must abstain. However, the presence of AIDS should be used by every youth and adult minister to emphasis why God said wait. Community groups and every health insurance company should offer free testing, which would help the thousands without insurance. AIDS testing should also be a part of everyone’s yearly physical.

Compared to the 50,000 annual the FDA says contracts AIDS nationally, Allegheny County is doing very well with just 50. But we need to work to bring that figure down to 20 then zero, especially the deaths. If you don’t have the infection, you don’t have the deaths.

The answer to the question is that it’s not an epidemic but it’s not just another STD either.

(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)

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