AIDS In Buffalo New York

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My first encounter with AIDS was in my biology book. AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome was defined as the later stage of a disease caused by a retrovirus known as HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which defects the immune system. At that moment I had a feeling of indifference since I had no experience with the subject. The more I learned through sex Ed and heard of AIDS’ proliferating I began to wonder how big AIDS is? When asked the cumulative AIDS cases since 1980 diagnosed in my zip code I guessed 5,000.

I was born and lived in Rwanda until the country became war torn and I was forced to emigrate. After moving around we settled down in Buffalo, New York. From early on I was told that my birth continent had the greatest epidemic of AIDS. With this in mind I did not think the disease was well and alive in Buffalo. When I got to high school, which was a catholic parochial all girl school the teachers made sure to increase our awareness. All freshmen had to take course studies of health that covered HIV and its various ways of transmission, the school also invited speakers to talk about chastity. As my perception of AIDS grew so did my number of cumulative AIDS cases. When I learned that the true number of AIDS cases in my zip code was 176 I was surprised because among the other codes my hometown of Cheektowaga had the third highest AIDS rate. Not only was I upset, but I was also angered at the fact that the epidemic had not been covered by the local news. The only media coverage of AIDS is often centered on third world countries. The subject of AIDS should be covered even if it involves talk of sex, a taboo often swept under the rug. Media coverage of the disease would help people understand and maybe identify the faceless identity of AIDS. The highest rate of AIDS was in the city on the lower west side with an AIDS rate of 1770.89, which is more than five times the national rate of 349.708. Data collected in November 2006 found that the cumulative cases of Aids in Western New York to be 43.8% of  African Americans, most of which are male. The risk category for contraction was men having sex with men or MSM according to the cumulative reported case of 1,036 with a percentage of 43.5. (See Table 1)

                I know my school was not the only which introduced AIDS in the schools or have speakers.  On the train I always notice a board about testing for HIV on Humboldt/ Hospital Station and most metro buses. The local media’s failure to cover the epidemic in Erie County kept the AIDS subject limited to those who dropped out of school or never went to begin with. Media coverage is also necessary in order reach all of the community. An AIDS victim cannot be easily picked out of a crowd of people on Main St, so its urgency and treachery is hard to identity with. The greatest misconception that the media and myth have presented is that AIDS is a disease of homosexuals and promiscuity. In a documentary woman living with AIDS shared her story. She was shocked to learn that she had contracted the virus even though she was not a “loose” woman, she did not feel at risk since she resided in Amherst, a town which was considered the safest in the country at one point.

Since Buffalo is segregated from North, South, West, East and suburban areas I was interested to see where the highest number of cases would land.  The highest rate of AIDS cases of 14201 was on the lower West Side of Buffalo, which is inhabited by Hispanics and Blacks. I was expecting that most would land on the East Side of Buffalo, where the highest population of Blacks resided. The greatest at risk groups in buffalo are Hispanics and Black therefore there rate is higher, their populations is also smaller than that of the East Side. In the smaller suburban areas, as my present residence in the town of Cheektowaga the rate of AIDS is higher. Before moving the Cheektowaga I lived on the West Side. There I could always spot out the Hispanic homosexuals by the flamboyant manner that they carrier themselves. I was able so pick out some black homosexuals but most of them carried themselves in a very masculine manner. My left the West Side in 2006 with the increasing violence that began take place. As years passed we notice an increase of drug dealers and prostitution in our neighborhood. There had been a large movement of blacks from the East Side to the West Side. The house across the street had been raided by police, who found various paraphernalia. Next to the drug house was a house that seemed very much to me like a brothel. The girls would always flaunt themselves and occasionally get in cars, while waiting for the metro I always noticed they would even hang on the corner.
            With increased awareness as more families began to develop a more personal relationship the disease the community begins to see the danger. Since the majority of AIDS cases is found among blacks, Baptist Churches have made a greater effort the reach to black community affect by the disease. The pastors believe that the church should open and provide a love institute of remaining critical and judgmental. They believe that it is ignorant to deny knowledge and claim that AIDS is god’s wrath for homosexuality, adultery and fornication. The ministry instead calls and invites those affected and creating a safe environment for them. The involvement of ministry in the community of buffalo is seen the article “New York: Pastor Bringing HIV Testing Into the Pews”. The story covers Rev. Darius G. Pridgen of Buffalo, who initiated an HIV/AIDS awareness program in True Bethel Baptist Church on the East Side of Buffalo. In the program the reverend told a bible story in which a character was ostracized for their illness to relate to the present day conflict. He then welcomed the congregation to get tested for HIV in the sanctuary of God. Pridgen effort were praised and even reproduced by other African ministers. I attend a catholic church and am sad to admit that the subject of AIDS  in Buffalo has ye to be mentioned.

There are various location to locations in buffalo to seek out for help but serious grave issue the fact that many living with HIV to seek out the service and until their health has almost nearly deteriorated. This is due to a lack of awareness, the embarrassment brought on by shame or discrimination. Some have the great fear of being ostracized by society and choose not to find out whether they are infected. In the impoverished locations families have problems acquiring housing and health care service. These locations are also distanced from the AIDS and treatment services which are beyond the reach the metro lines. Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) and AIDS Community Services the major HIV provider are limited with a great difficulty in maintaining and recruiting HIV specialists.

Fortunately the city of Buffalo realizes its problems and is making efforts to face the AIDS epidemic. The Board of Directors of the Western New York CARE Network made five services to tackle. They sought out the unconnected, people with living with HIV who had not or no longer accessed any services. Case Management was to make an effort of recruit skilled individuals that would help individual living with HIV or AIDS. Housing is an effort to provide affordable living arrangements along with medical and support services. The board also tackled discrimination which as huge problem in the region fueled by stigma that can lead to barriers for people living with AIDS. Most importantly there is implementation of Transportation for people living with HIV/AIDS so they can reach and keep their complete services.