HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) reported cases are rising at a epidemic rate in the black community in Detroit. It seems like one of the nation’s greatest cities is now struggling through a growing epidemic in poverty, lack of funding, and the recent development of HIV infections in the youth. Although the virus may have a correlation with the rising poverty rates, black men and women between the ages of 18 and 44 make up the majority of the affected.
According to a recent study by the Detroit Department of Health, the HIV rate matches that of the nation at almost one percent. Though the percentage may seem low, this number does not reflect the unaccounted homeless youth. Among this statistic, the Michigan Department of Health has reported that sixty-four percent of those affected in Detroit in the 18 to 25 age ranges represent the highest in the nation.
Factors that contribute to growing epidemic of contracting the life-threatening virus are the same for every demographic in Detroit. To further understand the risk factors and affects of the virus, the CDC conducts scientific research and provides health information to protect the general public. The department becomes involved in the populace safety when the threat begins to fester into a nationwide epidemic. However it appears that black males and females make up forty-four percent of new cases of over one million affected nationwide. As reported by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the African-American community cases of infection are eight times that of Whites and the highest of minority groups with black males who have sex with males comprising over seventy percent of infected.
The alarming numbers that affect the black community are reason for concern and should be a “wake-up” call to the nation. Not since the 80’s, when the virus became widespread public knowledge, has the CDC reported such a growth in new cases. Ruth Ellis Center’s Laura Hughes, whom works with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) homeless in Detroit, claims that over forty percent of the youth that come in to utilize the centers services know that they are HIV-positive. In this past year, the group serviced over four thousand three hundred people.
Now, more than ever, is the time when testing and knowing a person’s status is becoming a priority for the youth in Detroit to stop HIV from becoming a full-blown epidemic. Studies show that a large majority of those infected with the virus were unaware of their status until health complications arose or the development of full-blown AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Contrary to popular myth, the virus is not just a LGBT epidemic but one that is affecting the heterosexual community as well. These types of stigmatizations further contribute to the growing rates and harm the communities involved. There is no face that can be placed on HIV/AIDS, which is why all groups, regardless of race or sexual orientation should actively be pursuing testing. More than just knowing one’s status, action must be taken to help others aware of the growing trend and preventative measures.
To combat this becoming an epidemic in the motor city of Detroit, a free testing fair will be held on the upcoming National HIV Testing Day (June 27) at the Institution for Population Health. The fair was original established by Robin Cole, president and CEO of the Professional Medical Center, partnered with Gilead Science, Inc., one of the leading research and development organizations for HIV/AIDS prevention, have come together to sponsor this free event. Although HIV screening will be the main focus of the fair, screening for other health risk factors are set to take place for the community.
By Tyler Cole