Newswire : HIV rates remain high in the Black community

By Frederick H. Lowe

aids graphic
 AID’s rates among the population
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was Wednesday, February 7th, but if you missed the parade that acknowledged the day, you’re not alone because there wasn’t one. There were some panel discussions. But discussions concerning HIV have largely gone silent because many of us erroneously believe the disease has been defeated.
Although HIV infections and HIV deaths have declined in recent years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1.1 million people are currently living with HIV in the U.S. and 470,000 are African American. This number includes 74,100 individuals who don’t know they are infected and are at higher risk of transmitting the virus.
The disease has continued to cut a deadly swath through the Black community since 1981 when it was first discovered. By U.S. region, the South has the highest rate of recent HIV infections, accounting for the majority of blacks newly diagnosed with the disease, which was 63% in 2016.

HIV/AIDS was the sixth-leading cause of death among black men 20 to 44 years old and the fourth leading cause of death among Black women 35 to 44 in 2015. There are many reasons why this plague continues to spread almost unabated and almost unnoticed throughout the black community, but a significant reason is that the disease is not talked about as much as it was years ago. This relative lack of ongoing public discourse about HIV/ AIDS may have given rise to a false sense of safety in the black community.
The other leading causes of death among Black men are heart disease, cancer, accidents and homicide.
Major reasons for the high rate of HIV infection include poverty, lack of access to health care, higher rates of some other sexually transmitted infections, lack of awareness of HIV status and stigma, stated the Kaiser Family Foundation in its report “Black Americans and HIV/AIDS: The Basics,” published this month.
“Black Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS since the epidemic’s beginning,” reported Kaiser Family Foundation. “Although blacks represent only 12 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 43 percent of HIV diagnoses; 43 percent of people living with HIV and 44 percent of people who have died from HIV, which is a rate greater than that of any other racial or ethnic group (see chart below).
The Black community’s lack knowledge about medicines that control the virus and their reluctance or refusal to take advantage of available treatment options has also contributed to HIV’s spread.
Kaiser published its report years after the introduction of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, commercially called Truvada), which helps prevent individuals who are HIV-negative from contracting HIV. Although PrEP was introduced five years ago, it is not well known among blacks.
Gilead Sciences, Inc., which manufactures the only Food Drug Administration-approved form of PrEP, reported the drug’s uptake was low among African Americans. Between 2012 and 2015, only 10% of all new PrEP prescriptions were written for blacks.
Blacks also did not take the threat of HIV/AIDS seriously, probably because of a lack of information.
The late comedian Robin Harris told a joke about black people wanting AIDS because they believed it was money being given to white gay men who at the time were the largest group suffering from HIV infections. “Iwant some of that aid,” said Harris,” mimicking a black man in his comedy routine.
I worked in Philadelphia as a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News. The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists sponsored a luncheon on HIV/AIDS. We went to black gay bars to tell people about the event.
A startling number said they would not attend because they did not care if they contracted HIV/AIDS.

A reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer said she wasn’t going to attend because she did not to be in the same room with gay men and women. Needless to say, the luncheon was lightly attended.
But one woman who served food at the luncheon said she had heard about HIV/AIDS, but this was the first time it had been explained to her. She thanked the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists for hosting the event.
There are other reasons why HIV has spread unchecked in the black community.
Kaiser reports that the course from HIV diagnosis to viral suppression reveals missed opportunities in reaching blacks.
“While 84% of blacks are diagnosed, 46% remain in regular care and 43% are virally suppressed. Blacks also may be less likely to sustain viral suppression.” (This occurs when antiretroviral therapy, ART, reduces a person’s viral load, or HIV RNA, reduces the viral load to an undetectable level. Viral suppression does not mean a person is cured; HIV remains in the body, but it is checked).
Meanwhile, HIV is very much here. It’s an ever-present danger and one that’s getting worse though we’re being assured that it is getting better.
In 2015, African Americans had the highest age-adjusted HIV-death rate —- 7.9 per 100,000, compared with 1.1 per 100,000 for whites.
Newly diagnosed black gay and bisexual men are younger than their white counterparts, with those aged 13 to 24 accounting for 36% of new HIV diagnoses among black gay and bisexual men in 2016 compared to 15 percent among whites.
Charts by Frederick H. Lowe

Farmers reap ‘bitter chocolate’as unrest rocks Ivory Coast in Africa

Cocao producerin Ivory Coast
Producer displays cocao harvested in Ivory Coast

May 15, 2017 (GIN) – Troubles in the Ivory Coast have pushed the price of cocoa to its highest level in five years.

Don’t blame the farmer. In the world’s largest producer of cocoa, farmers have been going hungry since government slashed the price it guarantees for farmers by 36 percent, then withheld payments due since October – even while the nation’s economy grew by close to 9 percent for each of the past four years.

Visitors to the capital, Abidjan, may see signs of new wealth and a surge in construction transforming the city. Investors have poured in from Mauritius to Morocco. But many ordinary Ivorians have yet to see the benefits of growth.

Daily broadcasts on state TV celebrate the nation’s so-called economic miracle, but an outburst of social unrest this year – the worst since 2011 – is a sign that people are running out of patience.

“There’s a colossal development gap between Abidjan and the interior,’’ Youssouf Carius, an economist with Pulsar Partners, a private investment fund, told Bloomberg News. “Even though some areas have a lot of potential, private investment won’t arrive as long as public services remain largely non-existent.’’

“People feel that inequality is growing, and it’s a feeling that’s fanned by symbols: in Abidjan, you won’t go a day without seeing a Porsche Cayenne,” Ranie Kone, an economist, told a reporter. “We’re in a culture where showing off is very important and people tend to live above their means.”

While farmers, rough diamond miners, and former rebel soldiers struggle to get a living wage, the number of dollar millionaires in Ivory Coast climbed 45 percent in the past decade to 2,500, more than the African growth average of 19 percent, AfrAsia Bank Ltd. said in a report. It’s likely to jump another 80 percent in the coming decade, according to the bank.

Meanwhile, over 8,000 former rebel soldiers who were promised bonuses for helping to bring President Alassane Ouattara to power in 2010 are taking up arms over the promise broken by the administration. Military violence has been reported in the nation’s two largest cities and witnesses on the ground describe empty streets, closed schools, banks and offices in the upscale Plateau district.

“The situation is dangerous in terms of what will happen if a full-blown confrontation erupts between loyal forces and mutineers, Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reported. “The civilian population will be caught in the crossfire.”

Elsewhere on the continent, Madagascar, the world’s largest grower of vanilla beans is predicting steep price hikes after a tropical cyclone in March destroyed over 30% of the crop.

Unfinished Nigerian chapel collapses with heavy fatalities


Nigerian church collapse
Dec. 12, 2016 (GIN) – Newly-installed steel girders supporting a megachurch filled with Nigerian parishioners snapped abruptly during a Saturday church service, trapping hundreds and leaving a trail of tragedy for close to 200 congregants who lost their lives, according to local sources.

Mortuaries in the southern Nigerian city of Uyo were overflowing after the incident, Etete Peters, medical director of the University of Uyo teaching hospital, told the Associated Press.

In anticipation of the consecration service for the church founder, Apostle Akan, and a visit by the state governor, congregants told reporters on the scene that builders may have been pushed to finish the enormous structure earlier than planned.

The governor of the Nigerian state of Akwa Ibom, Emmanuel Udom, was inside the building when the girders fell onto worshippers and the corrugated iron roof caved in. Emmanuel escaped unhurt.

According to Reports Afrique, an online news service, Apostle Akan had urged engineers to remove the center scaffold that held up the roof to create more space in the church.

Journalists at the scene said church officials tried to prevent them from documenting the incident, trying to seize cameras and forcing some to leave the area. Later, Gov. Udom downplayed the number of fatalities – from 160 to 23 – blaming the discrepancy on shoddy reporting.

Body counts are now a matter of dispute since a lower number of fatalities was released by the Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, Akwa Ibom State Branch, Dr. Aniekeme Uwah, and higher numbers were released by foreign news agencies.

An article titled “Tell the Public the Truth about the Total Number of Victims and Casualties Now,” demanded an end to a “shameful coverup in order to undermine the gravity of the avoidable disaster.” The article, by human rights lawyer Inibehe Effiong, appeared in the online news service Sahara Reporters. Effiong is the convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders of Nigeria.

Meanwhile, a megachurch was again the scene of a tragedy on the same day when a stampede occurred at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Ikotun, Lagos State. Worshippers were reportedly attempting to reach the General Overseer, Prophet TB Joshua, as he led a special healing service.

Three worshippers have been confirmed dead after the stampede which occurred around 4:30 a.m., according to PUNCH.

Trump wins, but a record number of African Americans will now serve in Congress



Kamala Harris

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Reality star billionaire Donald Trump won the presidency in shocking fashion, but African American candidates also made history on November 8.

There will be a record number of African Americans in Congress during the time Trump is in the White House. That number will rise from 48 to 52. There have never been more African Americans elected to Congress in American history.

Kamala Harris of California will be the second African American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. Former Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown will serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both Republicans in the House, Mia Love (R-Utah) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) won re-election, as did the only Black Republican in the Senate, Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

Lisa Blunt Rochester was elected to the U.S. House in Delaware. Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings will also serve in the House. Virginia State Senator Don McEachin was elected to the House in a newly configured seat in Virginia that covers Richmond.

Though there will be more African American members serving in Congress, the dilemma they find themselves in is obvious: All but three are Democrats who will be serving in the minority in the House and Senate. Being a member of the minority party in the House is one of the most powerless positions in Congress. It’s the majority that sets the agenda, the hearing schedules, the floor schedule and when the Congress will be in recess.

The Senate is different. The two African American Democrats who will serve next year, Senator-elect Harris and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) could have some opportunities to influence the agenda moving forward. The Senate will be a narrower 52-48, and the rules allow for some disruption from members of the minority party.

But it won’t be easy. Currently members of the Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate are in a period stunned silence and are not even harping on the fact that Hillary Clinton won more votes than Trump and therefore no Trump has no real mandate.

The Democratic Party in recent years has not been anywhere as militant as the rightwing, who created the so-called Tea Party movement and the “alt-right” to deal with the growing influence of African Americans and Latinos at the ballot box. Democrats in Congress are primed for a new set of younger leaders to take the place of those who are in their mid-70s and who have failed strategically to win over voters in a country where Democrats are in the majority.

That the Democrats had two candidates over the age of 68 running for the presidency as Republicans fielded a candidate in his mid-40s is a sign it’s time for younger and more dynamic leadership on the left side of the aisle. One of those young leaders could come out of the Congressional Black Caucus, who is soon to elect a new caucus chair.

Congressional art contest winner depicts police brutality and protests

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA News Wire Contributor)

CBC art competition winnerCBC art contest winner

            Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School Senior David Pulphus won this year’s congressional art competition with a painting called “Untitled #1.” The first place winner is from Congressman Lacy Clay’s district (D-Mo.)

Congressional art competition entitled, “An Artistic Discovery,” features a nationwide art contest coordinated by members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The contest recognizes the talents of high school students across America. Over 200 Members of Congress and over 50,000 high schools students have taken part in the popular and competitive program.

Each year, members of Congress put out a call for students to compete in the contest and the resulting work is displayed on the white walls of a long tunnel that connects House Office Buildings to the U.S. Capitol. The work is seen by members of Congress, staffers, lobbyists and the thousands of visitors to the U.S. Capitol complex each year.

Inadvertently, the annual art contest has become a reflection of what’s on the minds of young people in America.

Pulphus’ work is an acrylic painting featuring a downtown street scene with the St. Louis’ iconic arch displayed in the background and three police officers with animal heads, two with guns in hand, and a large group of marchers approaching moving toward the police. The lead marcher carries a sign that says the word “history.” Pulphus’ painting includes several signs, one of which says “Racism Kills,” and another reading “Stop Killing.” On the right you can see man being crucified wearing a graduation cap holding the scales of justice in his hands.

Pulphus,’ “visually stunning acrylic painting on canvas entitled, “Untitled #1” will be displayed at the U.S. Capitol Complex. Pulphus will travel to Washington, DC, courtesy of Southwest Airlines, to unveil his winning entry. The painting portrays a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society,” read a May 6, release from Rep. Clay’s office.

Rep. Clay represents greater St. Louis and Ferguson, Mo., where in August 2014, Black teenager Michael Brown, Jr., was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

During an interview with the NNPA News Wire, Rep. Clay was asked about Pulphus’ work. The Congressman will greet the artist in Washington, D.C. and be present with Pulphus,’ when the painting is presented for display in the U.S. Capitol complex.

“I think that the art work selected for this year — winner of the Congressional art competition has to be the most creative expression that I’ve witnessed over the last 16 years,” Rep. Clay said between votes on the House floor.” I’m very proud of the young man who is the artist responsible for this work he depicts the St. Louis community in the way he envisions it. I respect that and I’m so glad that the judges picked his work number one as the winner.”

Pulphus’ work will travel to Washington, D.C. in a few weeks where he will attend a reception for all of the winners around the country. This year’s first place winner will receive a scholarship, according to Rep. Clay’s office.

The contest is in its 32nd year and this is the 16th year that Congressman Clay has conducted the competition in Missouri’s first Congressional District. Terri Sewell, 7th District Alabama Congresswoman also conducts the art competition in her district which includes Greene and many counties in the Alabama Black Belt.