We tend to become emotionally involved when something is personal. The loss of friends and loved ones to HIV/AIDS over the course of thirty years produced a perpetual cycle of loss, pain and goodbyes. It was the start of my emotional involvement and decision to speak up and do something.
I can’t address the scientific similarities between HIV and COVID-19, but I do know that both had and continue to have a devastating impact on the Black community in this country.
Black people represent 12% of the U.S. population, but account for a much larger share of HIV diagnoses (43%), people estimated to be living with HIV disease (42%), and deaths among people with HIV (44%) than any other racial/ethnic group in the U.S. Similarly, Black people in the U.S. are infected with COVID-19 at nearly three times the rate of White Americans.
Poverty, the lack of access to health care, the lack of awareness and stigma all contribute to the devastation brought on by both diseases.
The bigger culprits are ignorance, indifference, and silence. Far too many of us are guilty. The production of COVID-19 vaccines provides optimism and hope. But in this moment, we need more than hope. We can no longer be silent. We have to speak up, friends. We have to do something to help each other combat the devastation. We have an opportunity to increase COVID-19 and HIV education, testing, community involvement and treatment in communities of color – simply put, Silence = Death.