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NPR Program Profiles HIV/AIDS Advocates

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

NPR's "Tell Me More" on Wednesday profiled two HIV-positive advocates in the black community. According to a recent report from the Black AIDS Institute, nearly 600,000 blacks in the U.S. are living with HIV/AIDS, and more than 20,000 blacks contract the virus annually. HIV/AIDS also is the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34, according to "Tell Me More."

Rae Lewis Thornton, an HIV/AIDS advocate who has been HIV-positive for almost 20 years, said there continues to be a "disconnect" in the U.S. between one's personal life and HIV. “The earlier images of HIV really impacted America," Thornton said, adding, "We still by and large believe it’s white, we believe it’s male, we believe it’s gay, we believe it’s other, we believe it’s, you know, women who are promiscuous, and we think it’s not me." According to Thornton, the "fact of the matter is that people hear about HIV and we know about HIV but we never believe that HIV could happen to us."

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Marvelyn Brown -- author of the book "The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive," who was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 at age 19 -- added that many teenagers are aware of HIV but are more concerned with other issues. "I'm pretty sure HIV presented itself several times, I just never thought it could happen to me so I didn't care," Brown said. Thornton added that the black community has not "done a very good job" on educating people on "what it really means to have to manage this disease on a day-to-day basis."

Brown and Thornton during the program also discussed HIV-associated stigma, reaction from family about their HIV diagnoses and HIV prevention in the black community (Martin, "Tell Me More," NPR, 8/13).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.