Maya Rockeymoore, Ph.D.
Maya Rockeymoore, Ph.D.,
AFRICAN AMERICANS CONFRONT A PANDEMIC:
ASSESSING COMMUNITY IMPACT, ORGANIZATION, AND ADVOCACY
IN THE SECOND DECADE OF AIDS, in State of Black America (2002)
beginning of the epidemic, the politics and policies that developed in
reaction to the AIDS scourge have been rooted in the unique experiences of
’s gay community. Overwhelmingly
white and male, the vocal gay community responded to the early threat of
AIDS by mobilizing and using political muscle to marshal federal, state,
and local resources. Their
remarkable achievements in battling the ravages of a mystifying disease
should not be minimized—the more so because they simultaneously had to
fight a widespread social stigma and blatant discrimination in order to
bring the devastation of AIDS in their communities to national and
international attention. Their
early dominance and success, however, have influenced the content and
shape of the political processes surrounding the distribution of AIDS
resources to such an extent that it has had a crowding-out effect on other
groups who have also been severely affected by the epidemic.
to many, African Americans have been disproportionately affected by
HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic.
Early surveillance data issued by the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) revealed that black Americans were among the first
cases of AIDS in
and that their rate of infection was disproportionate to their
representation in the general population.
Unlike the white gay community, however, the black community failed
to formulate a coordinated early response to the epidemic for a variety of
reasons that were rooted in the campaign of misinformation about risk
categories and transmission that surrounded AIDS in its early years, in
socio-cultural biases that colored attitudes toward people affected by the
disease, as well as in depressed socio-economic conditions that made it
difficult to discern the gravity of a new threat amidst other pressing
The salience of this last point cannot be ignored.
In the 1980s the crack-cocaine epidemic, a dramatic spike in
drug-related crime activity, massive unemployment, and the hostile posture
and punitive policies of the Reagan/Bush administration consumed African
American communities. The
impact of these and other factors diminished their capacity to recognize
the spread of AIDS and to formulate an appropriate response.
second decade of AIDS would bring new concerns to the fore as
epidemiologists and the mainstream news media brought heightened attention
to the growing devastation created by HIV and AIDS in communities of
color. Since 1994, African
Americans have outpaced other groups in new cases of HIV/AIDS.
Although only 12% of the population, African Americans represent 38
percent of all AIDS cases reported in the
. In 2000 more African
Americans were reported with AIDS than any other racial and ethnic group.
Indeed, 63% of all women and 65% of all children reported with AIDS
in 2000 were African American. The
rate of reported cases for African Americans was two times greater than
the rate for Hispanics and more than eight times greater than the rate for
to the malaise in the first decade of AIDS, the second decade of AIDS was
very different in terms of impact, organization, and advocacy in the
African American community. By
the second decade it became clear that the institutions created by the
AIDS epidemic were a micro-version of the racialized institutions and
processes of the larger
health care system and society-at-large.
The fact that African Americans were contracting HIV and dying from
AIDS in record numbers provided an indicator that AIDS service
organizations, research entities, and treatment and prevention
models—formed to meet the needs of white men of means—were inadequate
to address the unique circumstances of African Americans and other racial
and ethnic minorities. These
stark socio-political realities would serve as a catalyst for a new era of
black political activism.
Introduction - AIDS Pandemic
The Changing Face of AIDS
AIDS and Community Mobilization
LEANING ON THE 'CONSCIENCE OF THE CONGRESS'
CONTINUED CHALLENGES IN THE THIRD DECADE