It’s World AIDS Day and I’m going to make you uncomfortable. It seems as if everyone is pissing each other off intentionally these days and I promise you that is not my goal. But as you’ve come to expect, on Ask the NP I keep it 100 and do my best not to sugarcoat. Especially with something this important.
I am no nationalist. In fact, quite the opposite. But on this World AIDS Day, I must bring awareness to the AIDS crisis in America—a crisis many aren’t even aware exists.
Recent data suggests that 50% of all gay and bisexual black men in the United States will contract HIV in their lifetime. 50 fucking percent.
“If gay and bisexual African-American men made up a country, its rate [of HIV] would surpass that of…all other nations.” Truth bomb courtesy of Linda Villarosa from her exceptional The New York Times Magazine piece “America’s Hidden H.I.V Epidemic.”
One in five American black men with HIV don’t know they have it until it has progressed to full-blown AIDS. These men often arrive at the hospital near death, requiring long stays in the intensive care unit and heroic measures to save their lives. Heroic measures that often don’t work.
I know this first-hand. I’ve seen these men die under my watch in the ICU. A 26-year-old should not die a horrible, painful, messy death from a disease that is 99% preventable. But he and others continue to die simply because they are poor, gay, and black.
Yes, I went there. And yes, this is a race issue. And a class issue. And a sexuality issue. It’s easy for us to ignore poor, gay, black men. That’s what we’ve done historically as a country, right? Oh, wait, my bad… Remember reading about all those gay black men in your school history books?
Yeah, me neither.
While rates of HIV diagnoses have plummeted among gay white men, heterosexual white men, and even heterosexual black women in the U.S.—along with many previously devastated countries all over the world—they continue to rise at an astronomical rate in the community of gay and bisexual black men.
The coordinated efforts of well-meaning U.S. and international health organizations focus on the global crisis while one of the worst AIDS crises’ on the planet is essentially ignored. The one right here in ‘Murica. The one in our own backyard.
Actually, it’s in our front yard. In our living rooms. In our churches and our boardrooms. In our emergency rooms. On our dating apps and in our clubs. In our bedrooms. Because gay and bisexual men of color are everywhere…everywhere except the broader historical discourse about HIV prevention and treatment.
This is not to say that there aren’t a ton of local and national organizations doing amazing grassroots work and making a huge difference. But these groups, particularly local organizations, are often strapped for resources and significantly (and intentionally?) underfunded by conservative state and federal agencies. This changed for the better during the Obama administration, but you can imagine how quickly the tide has turned under Trump.
HIV and AIDS in the U.S. is no longer an urban gay white male issue, but a Southern rural/small town poor gay black issue. Most new HIV diagnoses among gay black men occur in the South and in smaller urban or rural areas.
My friends with HIV (including the black men) generally have at least middle-class income, access to decent healthcare, good support systems, easy access to affordable PrEp, and live in communities where the stigma of HIV/AIDS is a fraction of what it used to be. Because of this, we’ve been lulled into thinking “the crisis is over.”
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just because the AIDS crisis isn’t impacting privileged gay white men in Los Angeles the way it did in the 90s doesn’t mean the fight is over for the LGBTQ community.
An AIDS-free generation is possible globally. But to do our part in making that a reality, we must change the discourse, initiate a renewed commitment to vulnerable communities right here in the U.S., and shake off our ridiculous, internalized racist and classist bullshit to save American lives.
“America’s Hidden H.I.V. Epidemic.” The New York Times Magazine, June, 6, 2017. Linda Villarosa. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/06/magazine/americas-hidden-hiv-epidemic.html
“Black Americans and HIV/AIDS: The Basics.” The Kaiser Family Foundation, February 7, 2017. https://www.kff.org/hivaids/fact-sheet/black-americans-and-hivaids-the-basics/
The Black Aids Institute. https://blackaids.org/
“Thousands Of Americans Still Die AIDS Every Year.” The Huffington Post, September 12, 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hiv-aids-deaths-united-states_us_59b6bb38e4b06e4604a22f2c
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Today I’m conflicted. No, I’m confused. No, I’m sad. No, I’m fucking stoked! No, I’m, I’m, I’m …
Flag on the play. 15-yard penalty for roughing the reader. Repeat first down.
Let’s try this again. Today is the opening Sunday of the NFL season and as a lifelong football fan, this day is usually filled with tremendous joy, catharsis, shit talking, and even shittier beer.
Today is also World Suicide Prevention Day, tomorrow starts National Suicide Prevention Week, and September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
As a nurse practitioner and advocate for better mental health awareness and treatment, my previously concussed conscious is having a hard time remaining a football fan. Maybe former ESPN College Football Analyst Ed Cunningham was on to something when he quit his highly-coveted gig over the dangers of football and brain injury. “… the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.” he recently told the New York Times.
Like the insufferably nauseating reverence bestowed upon the apparently infallible New England Patriots, we’ve all seemed to accept physical injuries as just “part of the game.” But as our collective de-stigmatization and awareness of mental health improves, we are all starting to see the writing on the helmet.
There is an obvious connection between repeated traumatic blows to the brain and a potential increase in neurologic and mental health diseases like dementia, depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Some of these diseases are directly connected to an increased risk of suicide.
As a nurse practitioner I also know that taking research at face value is like playing a soft cover-two defense against Aaron Rodgers. You will look like a fool. In fact, the CDC’s most recent exploration of suicide among retired NFL players found that rates of suicide are half that of the average adult male.
This research only looked at deaths by suicide. There needs to be more research about suicide attempts, depression, neuropsychiatric illnesses, schizophrenia, opioid addiction, dementia, and all the other very well documented links between brain injury and mental health. More importantly, there needs to be more action.
Too many players report mental health issues after they retire. Too many players have sued the NFL over brain injuries. Too many players are quitting the game in the prime of their career because of concussions and fears of lifeline neurologic damage.
Just like the Cleveland Brown’s not knowing who their franchise quarterback will be (no, Deshone Kizer having one good game does not answer that question) I don’t have the solution to this problem. No one does. Yet.
But it’s time to throw the red challenge flag on the NFL and all levels of football. Mental health and neurologic illness are unquestionable a part of the game. It’s up the NFL, players, AND us fans to advance the conversation or players will continue to face the deadly consequences of inaction.
“Are you ready for some football?” I don’t know racist Hank Williams Jr., I just don’t know.
For more information of how you can (and you really CAN!) help prevent suicide, check out the links below. If you are worried that someone you know might be considering suicide, please ACT! It’s better to have a pissed off friend than a dead one.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK)
To quote our girl Tina Turner, “We don’t need another hero.”
We’re amid what may be the worst natural disaster in US history. Hurricane Harvey has mercilessly ravaged Houston and eastern Texas/western Louisiana three times this week. We still can’t grasp the full extent of the flooding because it’s still freaking happening. Yet the experts are ALREADY calling this one of the most catastrophic US flooding events… Ever.
Of course we want to jump in and help, right? Some of us do that by sending a tweet, others by praying, others by donating money. In fact, celebrities like Beyoncé, the Kardashians, and Sandra Bullock have all donated massive sums of money. Kevin Hart has instituted his own sort of ice bucket challenge to other celebrities to donate more money.
But some of us lunatics have an even deeper desire to literally get our feet wet and jump into the mess. I know I’m ready. But running to the rescue in Houston and surrounding areas right now is foolish and dare I say ultimately self-serving. In a week or so when the water has really begun to recede and they clean-up begins, that’s a different story. Call a local relief organization, pack your bags and get out there!
It pains me every day not to be able to go and physically help. Particularly that I’m a trained medical professional and that I have done a fair amount of disaster relief work in my life. It’s a passion of mine. But I also haven’t helped a disaster in years and I am more than rusty. In a situation like this I would only add to the burden of what is already an overwhelming set of circumstances.
You are not a trained professional. It is much more likely that you will become a victim of the circumstances rather than helping. If you don’t live in Houston or the affected areas, stay your ass at home right now. (Unless of course you are a trained professional and/or live in the Houston area and were not affected, and if so, why are you reading my blog right now? GO HELP!)
Organizations like Team Rubicon who have extensively trained ex-military and civilian individuals are the types of people who can and should be doing the brunt of the rescue work. I don’t give a shit if you have a boat and you want to drive in from a thousand miles away to help. Leave your boat at home and if you must drive to the area, find a local church or community center or sports arena who needs the volunteers. BUT …
… before you leave your house to demonstrate your heroics, first think about this. If already tens of thousands of people are sleeping in sports domes and mega churches and random strangers living rooms, where do you think you are going to sleep?
If you really want to help, open that pocketbook and find a trustworthy, preferable local, organization to donate some money. Some of my favorites are listed below. And if you are in the affected areas and actually reading this blog, God dammit hang in there! The country has your back…
Agree? Disagree? Been a part of a natural disaster yourself and live through it? Here’s current in the comments. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow me @AskTheNP on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
Where should I donate?
You can start with Charity Navigator to do a bit of research on what organizations in which you are donating. – https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=5239
Team Rubicon – www.teamrubiconusa.org
The Houston Humane Society – http://www.houstonhumane.org/
The Food Bank of Corpus Christi – www.foodbankcc.com
The Daily Dose is dead. Yup, you heard me right. You deserve more than what I was giving you. So… what’s next for Ask The NP?
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