We’ve heard the alarming statistics. The HIV rate in Black America rivals that of sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 187,000 African Americans have died due to HIV/AIDS.
“If HIV-AIDS were the leading cause of death of White women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.” These were the words of Hillary Clinton in June 2007 during a Democratic presidential primary debate on the campus of Howard University. The words of then-Sen. Clinton place not only the epidemic of HIV/AIDS within context, but also highlights the seeming silence of the nation regarding the alarming rates of infection within the Black community, and particularly among Black women.
Who matters? Who counts? Who is worthy? Who is important? These are arguably some of the most fundamental questions that any society can answer. Remarkably, I believe a nation’s answers to these questions can best be evaluated through the lens of its public policy. Who exactly has been socially constructed to be entitled and deserving of the care and comfort, respect and resources, a nation and thereby society has to offer? These are age-old questions that human civilization has grappled with throughout the centuries, and sadly these are questions that are still at the root of the societal paralysis preventing our communities from effectively addressing the worldwide HIV/AIDS pandemic that can be found in our own backyard. Therefore, the question remains, how do those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS challenge their own negatively constructed identity as those who don’t matter … or at least matter enough?