Certain diseases occur more frequently within certain communities or ethnic groups. In part, this can be connected to genetics, heritage, environment, or the habits of a given cultural or ethnic group. This phenomenon is no different with HIV / AIDS, an illness which has been aggravated in the African-American community. HIV stands for the human immunodeficiency virus, a virus which can eventually turn into AIDS, also known as the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. HIV / AIDS is believed to have come from a chimpanzee in West Africa: "They believe that the chimpanzee version of the immunodeficiency virus (called simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV) most likely was transmitted to humans and mutated into HIV when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came into contact with their infected blood. Studies show that HIV may have jumped from apes to humans as far back as the late 1800s" (Cdc.gov). One of the major issues with finding a treatment and a cure for this disease is because it impacts the very biological system which is designed to keep people healthy and to fight off all infections. The white blood cells which are the body's metaphorical "soldiers of defense" are targeted by this virus, making the human body vulnerable to infections and to other diseases. Thus, for most people who have died of AIDS, they've actually died of opportunistic infections that capitalize on the weakened organism that has been created by AIDS.
At this time, there is no cure for HIV / AIDS; however, there is a highly successful AIDS cocktail which can keep a given individual from having the disease progress. The AIDS cocktail is also known as HAART: "A variety of antiretroviral drug therapies are currently available via prescription to HIV-infected patients. Each drug included in the combination therapy serves a unique purpose. The combination of drugs works to prevent the virus from replicating, and in many cases can restore the patient's CD4 and T-cell counts, thus improving the quality and longevity of life" (Krucik, 2013). While strides like these in modern medicine have been amazing and essential, the virus is still something which needs to be acutely controlled through education and prevention.
Moreover, it cannot be denied that the disease is localized to the African-American community. This is directly connected to the fact that there are simply more African-Americans infected with HIV / AIDS: this means that if one is engaging actively in sex, romance, play or socially with a group of people who have a high rate of the disease, you're going to put yourself in a position where you're more at risk. "HIV / AIDS continues to affect the African-American community at disproportionate rates -- more than any other racial and ethnic group in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, African-Americans account for 51% of newly reported infections annually, but this population only makes up 12% of the total U.S. population" (impact DC, 2010). These statistics demonstrate how indeed this condition is something which overtly impacts this minority group more profoundly than others. There's a great deal of speculation and conjecture as to why this disparity exists: some cite barrier to healthcare and a stigma in connection with this group; others assert that African-Americans generally transmit the disease through intercourse with HIV positive people or those at an aggravated risk of HIV, those who shoot drugs via needles or through sexual contact with men (impact DC, 2010). "The estimated annual HIV / AIDS diagnosis rate among black males was 124.8 per 100,000 population and 60.2 per 100,000 among black females, both higher than the rates for all other racial and ethnic populations" (Impact DC, 2010). This means that one can consider the disease to have inflicted a state of emergency within the African-American community (Impact DC, 2010).
I selected this topic precisely because it amounts to such a profound state of emergency on the African-American community. It is because this disease is so invasive and so debilitating to this community that I have selected it as my topic of focus because it needs the attention. This is a population in America which is already still very largely disadvantaged and in need of additional support. This is a population in America which is vulnerable to poverty, teen pregnancies, poor health and unemployment. This is not a population that can adequately deal with such an invasive disease on their own, particularly one which wages so much destruction.
Topic of Concern
Not only is HIV / AIDS a condition which profoundly affects the African-American community in such an invasive and destructive way, it does so during a time when most people assume that HIV / AIDS is no longer as grave a problem as it once was. However, this is simply not true. HIV / AIDS, aside from having no cure, is easily spread among members of the population, through unprotected sex, blood transfusions or shared needles. Thus, individuals who engage in responsible actions might be considered to be acutely at risk for the condition. As the New York Times pointed out, "The AIDS epidemic is spreading faster than previously thought, even as the American public's concern about it declines. That dangerous disconnect underscores the urgency of a new campaign announced by the Obama administration to combat complacency about the disease and its potential to strike the unwary" (2009). While the public might be well acquainted with this disease, they've allowed themselves to descend into a strong degree of complacency. While this has happened, the disease has been able to gain strong momentum. Since many people don't consider the condition to still be a real threat or as aggravated a threat anymore, it's put people into a state where they're less careful about their actions, thus making themselves more at-risk for transmission. This contributes to making HIV / AIDS an even more dangerous disease, because of this denial. This is indeed a formidable prospect, given the fact that the disease has no cure.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2006, 56,000 people around the country were newly infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, a hefty boost from previous estimates of 40,000" (NY Times, 2009). At the same time, the Kaiser Family Foundation engaged in a survey which demonstrates a profound drop in interest in concern of Americans who mention interest or recent knowledge about HIV / AIDS: the amount of people who deemed HIV / AIDS an aggravated problem has dropped from 44% to 6% (NY Times, 2009). These numbers accurately demonstrate that there is a strong need to reawaken public interest in the disease. Too many people think that because the condition is treatable, it's not as intimidating or as deserving of our concern or attention as it once was. This type of complacency is precisely what allows the disease to spread. The lack of concern and the lack of interest in the condition creates a false sense of security and develops a playing field where the disease can more rapidly spread: precisely because individuals are taking little action or proactive steps against it. This demonstrates the inherent state of emergency within the African-American community: this community is being crippled by the disease and is surrounded by a society that appears to care very little about it.
CHN Nursing Work and Interventions
As Community Health Nurse (CHN) I would work tirelessly on this issue in order to solve it. The first thing that I believe would be completely vital in gaining some success in this arena would be supporting prevention through education (Stanhope, 2012). All African-Americans need to know that they're in a completely vulnerable and higher-risk position for contracting HIV / AIDS. They need to know that they're still at risk and that this is still considered a tremendously formidable disease in America today. Members of this population need to know that the disease is considered to be an actual real state of emergency within their community. They need to be told that they have to arm themselves against this disease. One way of arming themselves is through education. I would work with other professionals in the field such as clinicians from AIDS clinics, other community nurses and health educators within the community to discuss how we can create a meaningful message about preventing HIV / AIDS. Studies have found that when working with African-American youths, both abstinence and safer-sex interventions can minimize the risky sexual behaviors that can lead to HIV; these interventions have been found to be most effective with adolescents (Jemmott et al., 1998).
Another pillar of the education and prevention process would be in distributing the tools and literature in the community so that people can take the safest form of action in protecting themselves. For example, this means distributing things like free condoms to people in the community who are sexually active, and making clean needles available to intravenous drug users, and distributing to everyone flyers…