Denial of Racism Will Not Help Prevent HIV/AIDS

July 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

by KATIE E.

I cringed when I saw the title of this article pop up: “In U.S. cities, AIDS linked more to poverty than race.” My head was immediately filled with visions of the damage that “post-racial” fauxgressives toting this as proof we should all be color-blind and the already minuscule support for reproductive health support groups specifically for racial minorities who may need it (like SisterSong or National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, both of which are fantastic groups that you should consider donating to if you can) dwindling further.

I think everyone who’s ever done real anti-racist work breathed a collective sigh of relief when the article made a note that “…understanding that blacks are disproportionately poor probably does explain why the rates are higher…”

Well, at least they can’t technically pull the “If you really wanted to cure AIDS and luuurved everyone, you would be race-blind” card on us. Still, I find it to be disturbing that this article mentions the connection between being black, living in poverty, and having AIDS a whopping one time, all while containing these gems:

  • “Federal scientists found that race was not a factor — there were no significant differences between blacks, whites or Hispanics.” For those of you who aren’t exactly statistics nerds, this point is made invalid for the disproportionate amount of black, Hispanic, and/or multiracial people who live in poverty compared to white people.
  • “Studies in Tanzania, Kenya and some other African countries actually found that wealthy people were more likely to be infected than the poor.” Because there is apparently something completely wacky about places that GASP-have different sociological trends than the U.S. It isn’t like class differences can mean a totally different thing in Tanzania than they do in the U.S.
  • “He noted there are diseases that are more prevalent in certain racial groups, for genetic reasons. Sickle cell disease, which is most prevalent in blacks, is one example.” Does this anyone else get the impression that Scientist Guy was trying so hard not to acknowledge that black people could be more susceptible to a disease because they’re more likely to be poverty stricken and living in poorer conditions, even though he knows it’s true, because it would wreck his white privileged color-blind street cred?

The article is essentially trying to brush over the simple fact that instead of poverty replacing race as one of the main risk factors for AIDS, poverty and racism are hugely interconnected, and neither system of oppression would exist without the other one. Meaning that, yes, race is a risk factor for AIDS, and AIDS prevention education and outreach need to acknowledge this in a big way, as do programs that work to put an end to poverty. Putting aside racism, classism, and the connection between the two may make those living in privilege more comfortable, but it will do nothing to prevent AIDS among oppressed groups.

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