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Lecture focuses on AIDS

Anna Gelhaus | Friday, November 7, 2003

The fight against HIV and AIDS does not appear as a key issue on the agendas of many black politicians, said lecturer Cathy Cohen.

Cohen talked Thursday about the topic of “HIV and AIDS in the 21st Century: Life, Death, and Black Politics.”

Cohen spoke on the issue of AIDS and HIV in black communities with a special emphasis on the political response to it. She discussed the lack of political interest in the disease and what needs to be done to improve it.

“The effort in the U.S. is falling off the political radar,” said Cohen.

Cohen first talked about statistics on AIDS among various groups in the United States. She explained that while the number of AIDS cases has declined over the years, the proportion of cases among African Americans has continued to increase.

“This is not a new story,” said Cohen.

Cohen explained that 63 percent of AIDS cases among women are black, making the disease the third leading cause of death for these women. For black men ages 35 to 44, AIDS ranks as the leading cause of death.

Because of these statistics, Cohen questioned why African American community leaders are not speaking out on this issue. She answered this with her theory of marginalization. In response to this question, Cohen said the black community is marginalized because it is “isolated, segregated, lacking means of control … that shape the quality of life, people are masked … pushed to the outside.”

Therefore, Cohen explained that efforts to communicate with such groups are needed so they can understand the issues. African-American media sources should be used to discuss AIDS rather than mainstream media sources, she said.

“[The slow response in these communities] has everything to do with a stigmatized view of HIV and AIDS,” said Cohen.

“To increase awareness of the AIDS problem, black leaders must recognize AIDS as a major concern and emphasize it over more positive issues.”