When AIDS first invaded the black community in the late 1980s, it only started as a strange-sounding disease that only other people get. Then suddenly, the virus attacks black people with such ferocity that many victims begin to die alone and separated from their families. Health workers are confused because the virus cannot be stopped.
That’s how Perneessa Seele, founder and CEO of The Balm in Gilead, Inc., described AIDS during that time when she worked as an immunologist at Harlem Hospital.
Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, the same pattern is clearly visible when the virus attacks Chicago, New York, Detroit, New Orleans, and other places in the United States. For black people who are more likely to die of HIV / AIDS than other groups in the US, it feels like a double pandemic, because both viruses attack at once.
“This corona virus is dangerous, and relentless. It doesn’t matter if you have HIV. It will fight HIV for you – two viruses to control your death,” Seele said.
The dual pandemic thinking that occurred in the black community caused some black activists and health officials to shudder. Although, it is still too early to know how many people with HIV die from COVID-19.
This makes COVID-19 even more scary because it adds another devastating burden, according to Gregorio Millett, vice president and director of public policy for amfAR.
It seems that when white people catch a cold, black people get pneumonia; and every time a disease afflicts America, black people will get worse disease. That is a popular saying in the black community that reveals historical patterns.
Black people more likely than other American groups to have health problems like diabetes, heart disease and lung disease. Also, they are more likely to live in poverty and have lower access to health insurance, according to statistics. It’s no wonder why they don’t trust healthcare providers any more.
This explains why 42% of new HIV cases in the United States in 2018 also come from the black community even though they only make up 13% of the US population, according to the CDC.
Fortunately, people living with HIV live longer due to advances in care and treatment. However, many black people cannot afford the treatment. This is one of the many reasons along with the underlying health condition why many victims are black coronaviruses.
In Chicago, 30% of the population consists of black Americans but consists of 72% of COVID-19 patients who die of the virus.
Compared to HIV / AIDS, there are several reasons for optimism about stopping the spread of the corona virus in the black community.
For example, stigma has been attached to victims of HIV / AIDS, especially during the 1980s. But not in people diagnosed with COVID-19.
Many people from the black community contracted the corona virus because most of them held service jobs as grocery store employees, bus drivers, or nurse aids. Americans today praise them because they do not have the opportunity to work from home.
Moreover, many public health officials are leading the fight against the pandemic including Dr. Anthony Fauci, is the same person who helped reduce the death rate from AIDS.
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