Black AIDS Activist: ‘Our House is On Fire’

Three decades into the AIDS epidemic, CNN's Anderson Cooper spotlights its crippling effects to the black community.

By Jamilah King Jan 18, 2011

CNN recently aired an AC360 special report called "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS." The segment focused on the epidemic’s devastating impact on the black community. Rod McCullom points out that blacks represent only 13 percent of the U.S. population, but make up 45 percent of percent of all new HIV/AIDS cases, and 46 percent of people living with the disease. "Our house is on fire, and we need to figure out how to put that fire out," said Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. Wilson’s been living with HIV since 1980.

Those numbers aren’t exactly breaking news in the black community. Over the years there have been useless attempts to blame the epidemic’s spread on the so-called "down low" — men who have sex with both men and women, but don’t identify as gay. Last summer Kai Wright wrote about how researchers have consistently disproved the theory, but that hasn’t stopped influential folks in the black community like comedian D.L Hughley from continuing to trumpet. Meanwhile, issues like a woman’s access to preventative health care, the staggering cost of medication, and skyrocketing infection rates among black men who do identify as gay or bisexual have gotten comparatively less attention. Also, recent data from the Centers for Disease Control show that HIV in poor neighborhoods in the U.S. are of similar intensity as those in poor nations globally.