World AIDS Day: Let’s Act Up to End Disparities

posted on: December 1, 2012

By Lisa Ranghelli

I recently blogged about the challenges and opportunities of creating an AIDS-free society, a possibility that philanthropy can help make a reality by supporting advocacy to influence health care access for people living with or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. I was inspired by the compelling words and deeds of smart, effective advocates and funders.

Today is World AIDS Day, and more inspiration abounds to commit to this goal. On Tuesday, several people stripped naked in House speaker Boehner’s office to protest potential loss of funding for AIDS treatment and research as Congress tries to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” of mandatory budget cuts.  These civil disobedients were members of Act Up (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), a group that got the government, indeed society, to pay attention and take action after AIDS became an epidemic in the 1980s. If not for those early in-your-face tactics, many more people would have been casualties of this awful disease.

A new infographic created by Hatty Lee and reported by Kai Wright for Colorlines captures the racial and gender dimensions of AIDS in America today. While the news about overall infection and mortally rates is encouaraging, U.S. diagnoses among African American men and women remain disproportionately high. An alarming 62 percent of women diagnosed with HIV are black, along with 41 percent of men. Latinos represent 24 percent of men and 18 percent of women diagnosed. Wright notes that data is not even collected systematically about transgender people, but “every study that has paid attention to the trans community has found horrifyingly high rates of infection, particularly among black folks.”  Infection rates among gay men have risen steadily since the late 1990s, and 37 percent of that cohort is black.

Lee’s graphic is a compelling reminder that we still need to ‘Act Up’ today to make sure that the significant gains made in treating and preventing HIV/AIDS reach those most affected by it. Philanthropy can target its limited resources to help find solutions to reduce these disparities, especially among gay and transgender communities of color.

Lisa Ranghelli is the director of NCRP’s Grantmaking for Community Impact Project.