By Dr. Patricia McManus
Black Health Coalition
We have talked about health care finance reform for the last two weeks so let’s get back to the discussion of HIV/ADIS in the African American community and the 800-Pound Gorilla in the Room.
For those who remember Part 1, I allocated 600 pounds of the problem to the African American Community itself. The level of discrimination that, we as a community have assaulted persons with HIV/AIDS is unbelievable.
You would think that a community with the history of bias and discrimination that we continue to receive from others would make us more sensitive to the concerns within our own community.
But the opposite is true. Many people who are infected with HIV/AIDS have told me that they receive more compassionate treatment from those who are outside our community than in.
Well the other 200 pounds has suddenly gotten lighter with the passage of the Health Care Reform Law. Before this bill was passed, persons with HIV, but not diagnosed as AIDS, were not eligible for Medicaid. Those with private insurance were often dropped once a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS were known.
This bill will allow every access to quality health insurance. Those who have become ill and cannot work will still have access to health insurance now. This is very important in the life of someone with HIV/AIDS. Keeping as healthy as possible is very necessary to sustain their fight again their disease.
It will not totally erase the possibility of discrimination from health care insurance agencies or health care providers, but it gives these patients more of a fighting chance. They will not have to worry about being dropped or not able to get insurance. The issue of pre-existing conditions will still be an issue until at least 2014.
Also, part of the 200 pounds is the other issues that people with HIV/AIDS have to endure, such as finding stable housing, legal services and employment. Maybe, the most stressful of all is the concern for their children, their family and friends.
Many times these persons who usually assist their loved one in advocating for needed services are also treated very badly by various systems of services. Many times they are greeted with the same distain and ambivalence that the person with HIV/AIDS is treated.
These helpers, many times, must keep the secret from others, including health care providers for what they believe is the best for their loved one. But, is this the best way?
This web of secrecy is killing others. We have persons who are intimate with infected people and do not know it. Contrary, to popular belief there is no guaranteed “face of HIV/AIDS.”
How many of you have said, “He or she doesn’t look like someone who would have HIV/AIDS.” I have heard this from people in the community as well as health care providers. Is this one of the reasons that HIV/AIDS is diagnosed so late for African Americans?
Part of the reason that many in our community refuse to get tested is the thought “there is no reason I would need one.” What is this based on? If you have no history of IV drugs and have been celibate since birth that may be true. But if you cannot answer yes to both of the previous circumstances, you need to get tested.
If you plan to have sex, you and your partner need to get tested. If your partner objects or questions your “love” for them to demand this: Remember, it is your life you are putting on the line.
This includes those who are married too. You also should get tested. This not a matter of trust. It is a matter of life and death, especially if you plan to have children. The trust should be about doing things that show that you are important to them.
Remember: Get tested for your sake and for the sake of our community!!!!