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Black Women Confront HIV Stigma, Health and Funding Disparities at USCA

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By Rod McCullom, Special to the NNPA from the Black AIDS Institute –

This year the U. S. Conference on AIDS (USCA), the largest HIV/AIDS gathering in the nation, targeted its offerings toward men who have sex with men. But during the meeting sponsored by the National Minority AIDS Council, many Black women--from prevention and policy experts to those living with HIV/AIDS--aggressively pursued programming and issues that focused on their demographic.

“It’s time to mobilize around the lack of funding and resources targeting women living with HIV in the United States," said Amanda Lugg, director of advocacy and mobilization of the New York City-based African Services Committee.

The USCA did “a very good job with multiple targets. There was a segment targeting women and I am ecstatic that next year’s conference will focus on women,” said Texas Woman’s University assistant professor Kimberly A. Parker, Ph.D., M.P.H., C.H.E.S. “But we need to do more.”

Infection rates among Black women are nearly 15 times higher than those among White women. But while in 2009 Black women accounted for about “30 percent of the estimated new HIV infections among all Blacks," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “we don’t receive 30 percent of the funding,” said Lugg. “There is a huge divide between the face of the epidemic and funding for HIV prevention and research. It’s very important to monitor how CDC utilizes resources and how the National HIV/AIDS Strategy will affect women.”

HIV Rates Rising Among Black Women in Rural States

“There are huge disparities in rural states such as Iowa,” said Taz Clayburn, community-outreach coordinator at the AIDS Project of Central Iowa. “African Americans are only 2.8 percent of the population but 56 percent of our state's HIV and AIDS cases.”

“We're seeing a huge increase in infections among African-American women in Des Moines,” Clayburn added. “It’s important to link African-American women to care and persuade them to motivate themselves as a priority. As Black women, we don’t take care of ourselves--we take care of everybody else first.”

Blacks account for 50 percent of HIV infections in rural counties, according the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, whose research suggests that the rural epidemic may be shifting toward African-American women.

To complicate matters: “Since Iowa is considered a ‘low incidence' state, we've lost 55 percent of our prevention funding starting January 1," Clayburn added.

It’s a similar story in the southwest, where Blacks are few in number but disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Blacks are only four percent of Arizona’s population but are three times as likely to become infected, reported the East Valley Tribune which adds: “The HIV rate for Black women in Arizona is nearly nine times higher than that for white women.”

“The Black community is very small here, but we’re targeting resources to Black women and Black men who have sex with men,” said Kathy Donner, HIV prevention manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“Everyone Has a Story”

“First the epidemic was first thought of as only affecting white gay men,” added Clayburn. “Then gay men, now African-American gay men. When will women become a priority?”

Dr. Parker led a workshop entitled “What’s Next and What’s Needed with HIV Research with Women?” “Nine out of ten Black women are contracting HIV through heterosexual contact," Dr. Parker said. "So to understand Black women and the epidemic, we also must address their partners. And for Black women, socially and historically it’s going to be Black men.”

“We’re not comfortable discussing sex and sexuality in the Black community,” said Dr. Parker. “In order to de-stigmatize HIV/AIDS, we have to de-stigmatize sex and learn to discuss it in a healthy manner.”

A reception and screening of the “Everyone Has Story” video training series developed by Atlanta-based SisterLove, which has been lauded for its community-based risk-reduction strategy, addressed this stigma. The videos “empower Black women who are HIV-positive to share their stories and manage their condition,” said SisterLove founder and president Dázon Dixon Diallo. The event was hosted by Diallo and Emmy-nominated actress Vanessa Williams.

“For the past 22 years, Sister Love has created interventions that celebrate women’s sexuality while teaching us to be safe,” explained Diallo. “It is hard for many women to say, ‘I am a sexual human being.’ Now they can say, ‘As long as I have all the tools to keep myself safe, I can be, do and have whatever I want!’”

Atlanta resident Phyllis Malone was featured in one of the videos, which were produced by Merck. “It’s amazing and empowering to see myself on the screen,” she said to applause.

“I was diagnosed in 1996. I went to jail and was in prison,” Malone said. “When I was released, SisterLove gave me transitional housing and later helped me find a house! I stopped taking my meds for about two years. But I returned to SisterLove. I don’t want to forget my story. My past made me who I am today.”

Rod McCullom has written and produced for ABC News and NBC, and his reporting has appeared in Ebony, The Advocate, Colorlines and other media. Rod blogs on politics, pop culture and Black gay news at rod20.com.

More than 100 Black Colleges, Universities Fighting Proposed Spending Cuts

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Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer –

A coalition of more than 100 colleges and universities are fighting to persuade Congress and the special supercommittee not to cut $85 million or more in federal funding. The coalition consists of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).

These organizations, which collectively represent the 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and 50 Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), are opposing proposals that will cut federal funds to HBCUs by $85 million or more and would zero out support for PBIs. Coalition representatives said the proposed funding cuts would come on top of $30 million in cuts already made in HBCU funding.

"The colleges that would have to absorb these cuts serve students who employers are counting on as the next generation of engineers, scientists, teachers, doctors and nurses," said Michael L. Lomax, UNCF president and CEO. "Their education is being threatened at the worst possible time--in the midst of an economic downturn that is already making it hard for them to stay in school and graduate."

Colleges face a double-barreled threat. Funding cuts could be contained in the supercommittee recommendations or made through the normal appropriations process for the current fiscal year. The three organizations support funding levels contained in an appropriations bill passed by a Senate Appropriations Committee for the Departments of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education. They oppose the sharply-lower levels proposed by House appropriators.

The coalition seeks to rally students, alumni, faculty, staff, administrators and all supporters of HBCUs and PBIs to get their senators and representatives to persuade supercommittee members not to cut the deficit by disinvesting in higher education. The supercommittee has until November 23 to submit recommended budget reductions and revenue increases.

"Cutting federal support for HBCUs would shoot an already-weak economy in the foot," said TMCF President and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. "In addition to the students they educate, they impact more than 180,000 jobs, including professors, counselors, staff members and others. Local businesses and national companies depend on the money that the colleges, their employees, and students spend. Their total economic impact is estimated at over $13 billion."

NAFEO, TMCF and UNCF have been leading a tough fight to gain support of Members of Congress to ensure they understand the consequences additional budget cuts will have for HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). In April of 2011, this coalition marched on Capitol Hill and urged support for protecting the maximum funding for Pell Grants, continuing funding for Title III, Part B (undergraduate and graduate programs) and Title III Part A, and continuing funding for the HBCU Capital Financing Program.

In October of this year, HBCU presidents visited the District to advocate for HBCUs, and MSIs, and urged protection of HBCU and PBI funding through Fiscal Year 2012 and the supercommittee deliberations. In October, more than 10,000 HBCU students wrote letters thanking the Obama Administration for its support for full funding for HBCUs and telling their stories of how federal funding for HBCUs is enriching their educational experience.

"Republican and Democratic Presidents have made funding HBCUs a national priority as have successive bipartisan majorities in Congress, in recognition of the fact that HBCUs and PBIs are vitally important to stimulating the economy, preparing excellent, diverse, workers, putting Americans back to work, and meeting the human services needs of traditionally underserved communities," said NAFEO President and CEO Lezli Baskerville.

"HBCUs are great national resources of leadership in the sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, education, health and the environment. They contain costs at a time when the costs of college are increasingly beyond the reach of the masses. HBCUs and PBIs are the best return on investment in the higher education arena. It would be disconcerting if Congress or the Super committee decides to reduce the deficit without raising revenues and by cutting funding for HBCUs and PBIs, the primary incubators of diverse human capital to make the nation thrive."

Chicago Fisk Alumni Travel to Nashville with Prospective Students

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By Afrique I. Kilimanjaro, Editor
Special to the NNPA from the Carolina Peacemaker –

NASHVILLE, TN. - Imagine, being charged with recruiting students to attend one of the nation’s most renowned Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country. Most college recruiters will say it’s not an easy or simple task, but for members of the Chicago Area Fisk University Alumni Association, it is a task they have gladly accepted year after year. This year’s trip took place last week during Fisk’s Homecoming Weekend.

With 13 chaperones comprised of Fisk Alumni and loyal supporters, 150 students were loaded on three luxury buses for the eight hour trek southward to Nashville, TN. Former Fisk Alumni President Gina Davis, Esq. said, “This gives many kids, some who have never left the Chicago area, an opportunity to visit and experience college life on an HBCU campus.”

Established merely six months after the end of the Civil War on January 9, 1866, the Fisk School in Nashville was established. By August 22, 1867 the school was incorporated as Fisk University. The academic institution has a storied history with its world famous Jubilee Singers and distinguished alumni such as the NAACP co-founder WEB DuBois (Class of 1898); two-time Pulitzer Prize Writer David Levering Lewis; founding member of the SNCC Diane Nash; and the university’s current president and former U.S. Energy Secretary under the Clinton Administration, Hazel O-Leary.

The excited Chicago students traveled to Fisk with official transcripts in hand and official ACT or SAT scores. If the students’ credentials met the university’s qualifications for admission, they were granted acceptance letters to the university.

One famous preparatory high school for boys in Chicago, Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, boasts a 100 percent high school graduation rate and acceptance to college. This year, George Huff, assistant director of college counseling at Urban Prep escorted several high school juniors and seniors to the Fisk University campus. Of those students, 22 seniors were accepted for the Fall 2012 class and five received full scholarships as Fisk Presidential Scholars.

Jason Meriwether, vice president of Student Engagement and Enrollment Management at Fisk said he appreciates the enormous recruiting efforts by the Chicago Alumni to engage young people, educate and inform them about the university’s current achievements as well as its historical significance.

Many students on the bus trip expressed their gratitude for having the opportunity to travel away from home, see an HBCU and talk to current Fisk students about their college experiences. One such student said, “Well, I have admissions to other universities closer to home, but none of them have the warmth nor do they seem to genuinely care about my wellbeing as a person. I got that caring vibe here at Fisk.”

Dr. Helen Davis Gardiner, a Fisk and Meharry Medical College alumna from Chicago said, “This is not an easy task, but we (alumni) love our alma mater and truly believe in giving back to the institution that has given us so much.”

Due to the consistent efforts of the Chicago Fisk University Alumni Chapter, 30 percent of the university’s student body hails from the Windy City.

Obama Drug Adviser: Reform Justice System to Recognize Drug Addiction as Disease

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

President Obama’s top drug policy advisor will hold a media briefing on Nov. 21 at the Office of National Drug Control Policy to share new approaches to America’s drug war.

Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, will share data regarding the disproportionate impact our nation’s drug problem has on African American communities.

Kerlikowske will also reveal unprecedented efforts by the administration to break the cycle of drug use, crime, incarceration, and re-arrest. He will be joined by Dr. Redonna K. Chandler, chief of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Services Research Branch in the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research.

“The Obama Administration has been laser focused on applying sound, research-based drug policies geared toward protecting Americans from the public health and safety threats drugs pose. As someone who has spent their entire career in law enforcement, I know we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem,” said Kerlikowske.

“That’s why our policies are now based upon the recognition that drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. The tragic wreckage wrought by drug use can and should be prevented before it becomes a criminal justice or public health emergency.”

Kerlikowske recently finished a nationwide tour with prominent Black leaders from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Los Angeles to listen to concerns about drug policy impact and to share the administration effective solutions to reform the criminal justice system to make it more fair while protecting public safety.

“As our nation works to recover from one of the greatest recessions we’ve had, we must do everything we can to lessen the harm that drug use causes to the health, safety, and economic potential of our nation. As part of this effort, we must reform our criminal justice system so that it recognizes drug addiction as a disease and works in a way that is fair and equitable to every American. This challenge requires new and innovative ways of thinking about how we address our drug problem,” stated Kerlikowske at a Nov. 10 meeting with several African American leaders.

More than seven million people in the United States are under the supervision of the criminal justice system with more than two million behind bars.

Expanding Age Gap Between Whites, Minorities May Increase U.S. Racial Divide

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By Teresa Wiltz, Special to the NNPA from America’s Wire –

WASHINGTON—A generation gap in several states between older whites and younger Latinos and African-Americans has race relations experts concerned that age differences in the population are influencing spending and public policy in areas such as education, transportation, immigration and infrastructure.

As the United States rapidly advances toward having a majority-minority population, whites continue to grow older, while --whites are increasingly younger. Evidence is mounting that what has been considered a racial divide in the country is also crystallizing into a generational divide.

Newly released U.S. Census data demonstrate a rapidly widening racial age gap. The median age for white Americans is 41 but is 32 for blacks, 31.6 for Asians and 27 for Latinos. Across the country, 80 percent of senior citizens are white, while nearly half of the nation’s youth are of color. Such significant age disparities, some experts on race relations say, may be having far-reaching implications on resources invested in programs and areas benefiting younger generations.

“Where the old don’t see themselves reflected in the young, there’s less investment in the future,” says Manuel Pastor, a professor of geography and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California where he directs the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and co-directs the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.

“Our racial divide has become a generational divide,” Pastor says. “There’s this image of an older generation drawing up the drawbridge just as the younger generation is coming of age in America.”

More important, data show that states with a larger gap between median ages of whites and people of color tend to make fewer investments in social programs that once benefited older generations that were predominantly white, according to a new research project by PERE in conjunction with PolicyLink, a national research and advocacy organization based in Oakland, Calif.

For instance, Pastor says states with significant age gaps between white and nonwhite populations tend to spend the least on education and public transportation.

In Arizona, the median age for whites is 43 compared with 25 for Latinos, who comprise 31 percent of the state’s population. On per-pupil spending for education, census data show that Arizona ranks 49th among the states and the District of Columbia. In terms of spending on transportation, the state is in the bottom quarter of all states, according to Dominique Apollon, research director at the Applied Research Center, which has offices in New York, Chicago and Oakland.

“States that have the biggest age divide like Arizona really become ground zero for the racial generation gap,” says Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink. “Places that don’t invest in the future will not be competitive in the future.”

To illustrate her point, Blackwell cites California and Mississippi. Through slavery and restrictive Jim Crow laws, she says, Mississippi consistently underinvested in the black community. Today, Blackwell says, it consistently ranks on or near in the bottom in terms of education spending and has the nation’s infant mortality rate. Forty is the median age for whites in Mississippi, 29 for blacks and 25 for Latinos, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

In California, public policy priorities have changed as the white population has aged. In the 1950s, when white families arrived from the Midwest in search of jobs, California built the nation’s best educational system. There were generous investments in the state’s infrastructure and programs to help families become homeowners. The state became a poster child for the benefits of public sector spending.

Today, California has a considerable age gap between white and nonwhite residents. The median age for whites is 43, for blacks 34 and for Latinos 27, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Furthermore, Blackwell says children of color comprise 70 percent of the state’s 18-and-under population while 60 percent of its over-65 population is white.

Beset with budget issues, California now hovers in the lower rungs of per-child spending on education, ranking 43rd nationally. It also ranks in the bottom quarter of all states in transportation funding, according to the Applied Research Center.

“You’re starting to see the same approach that held back states like Mississippi holding back states like California,” Blackwell says. “California is the harbinger. Mississippi should have been the lesson.”

Still, questions have been raised about whether a relationship exists between racial age gaps and public sector spending. “I’m a little skeptical” about whether it is a national trend, Apollon says. Some state spending levels, he says, may be related to conservative philosophies toward government spending.

Still, Apollon says, “there is certainly a fear of the changing demographic amongst a small minority of the country, and that minority tends to be whites and it tends to be slightly older.”

According to demographer William H. Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, generation-gap states like Arizona tend to have “lightning rod issues” such as immigration and undocumented immigrants. Last year, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed into law the nation’s strictest immigration legislation, which made failure to carry immigration documents a crime.

The law also gave police wide latitude in detaining anyone they suspected of being an illegal immigrant. A federal judge later imposed an injunction on many of the law’s provisions. The state also banned Chicano studies programs in its public schools.

Frey says antipathy toward immigrants is a generational trend, noting the hostility toward Italian and Polish immigrants 100 years ago. Immigration slowed between the 1930s and 1970s, and not until the 1990s did Latin American immigration begin surging. Rapidly changing demographics unnerve many people, he says, adding that baby boomers had not witnessed the immigration wave of the early 1900s.

“What bothers me is politicians use this as a wedge issue,” Frey says, “rather than explaining this [wave of immigration] is part of our history.”

Meanwhile, other people see the disinclination to invest in younger generations as a matter of economics and self-interest. “I personally think it’s class that’s the issue, not ethnicity,” says Joel Kotkin, author of “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.” As older generations age out of the workforce, Kotkin says, they are much less concerned about opportunities for the next generation, regardless of race.

The state of the economy is also having an impact on social spending. “When the economy goes bad, people get scared,” says Michael R. Wenger, senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington. “All of us get scared unless we’re Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. . . . We want to spend less because we don’t know what’s happening. That kind of fear means that people don’t want to be their brother’s keeper. They are fearful for their own future, and that comes first.”

Anxiety about the future is coupling with unease about the nation’s rapidly changing demographics to affect public policy. “This country has always been seen by white people as a white country,” Wenger says. “So a number of people see that slipping away, so their sense of control is slipping away. “

But Pastor says such fear becomes counterproductive.

“It’s not just kids of color that are hurt when you don’t invest in education,” he says. “It’s young white families that are afraid to move back to the cities because of the schools. We’re really damaging a whole generation of possibilities.”

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