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Global Health Corps

Dec 1, 2014

6 min read

Power, Privilege, and HIV/AIDS

A Call for Renewed Activism on World AIDS Day 2014

Didn’t anyone else feel impassioned that almost 40 years after its emergence, HIV/AIDS continues to spread — and kill — based on uneven distributions of power, privilege, and discrimination?

My anger toward our society’s response to HIV/AIDS today is rooted in several facts:

What this story would exclude, however, is that the rate of HIV/AIDS in some U.S. cities is actually higher than other parts of the world; Washington, D.C. has a higher rate than Ghana, Rwanda, and 26 other African countries (5)

More than 50,000 people in the U.S. are still infected each year. Similar to global disparities, men who have sex with men (MSM) and injecting drug users are among the most vulnerable groups; their rate of infection has increased since 2008 (6). Moreover, blacks, who make up only 13% of the U.S. population, account for 50% of annual AIDS infections (7); one in 32 black women will become infected in the U.S. while the risk for black men is one in 16 (6). And, perhaps what frightens me most is that no one is talking about who AIDS still kills in this country — it is among the top 5 causes of death for black women aged 25 to 44. In other words, for Americans like me (8).

On this World AIDS Day 2014, we cannot forget that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still that — an epidemic.

Today, I encourage you to join me and be angry. We collectively as activists, researchers, students, educators, or just as citizens of a globalized world need to remember that sense of urgency, to remind ourselves that power and privilege can be used for good and that we — both the activists of the previous generations and emerging leaders from current generations– have an obligation to take our anger, and passion, and continue to fight for change.

New voices and ideas from Global Health Corps, a diverse community of over 1000 young leaders worldwide united by the belief that health is a human right. We tell our own stories, honestly and thoughtfully, because this is where our activism begins.