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Volume 69, Issue 94, Thursday, February 19, 2004


Blacks need to address health issues

By Keenan Singleton

Black History Month. A good month. A great month, even.

What other month offers the seminal Roots miniseries 'round the clock or witnesses the great black historian, rap star Nelly, wax philosophical about the achievements of African-Americans on the great, black network, BET?

If you're black, there's a lot to celebrate during February, from the perseverance of African slaves to the creation of countless cultural contributions (jazz, hip-hop, anyone?). There's the academic aptitude of Ralph Bunche, the first black person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and Garrett A. Morgan, the inventor of the traffic light and the gas mask. And there's the area where black individuals are most lauded -- athletics and entertainment -- among them the ultimate team player Bill Russell and Paul Robeson, a true renaissance man.

But all of those years of struggle and success could be strangled away, leaving Black History Month a lifeless husk. Why?

The present.

Yes, to keep black history fresh, we must reminisce on the past and champion its triumphs, but the past is past. 

What about the future? When will we start to worry about Black Future Month?

While steeped in the accomplishments of the past, blacks have forgotten about the present and what got us here -- the past -- and how to successfully make the future bright. 

I'm not talking about increasing economic or legal power. No, I'm talking about something much smaller and much simpler. I'm talking about health. 

Without this basic element, there cannot be a future, or at least a future worth living.

Did you know that the No. 1 threat to the lives of blacks between the ages of 25-44 is AIDS? I know I'm not the only college-age student who had the ways of acquiring the disease drilled into their heads either at school or on TV. 

But in case you didn't know, the disease is totally preventable and totally avoidable. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 50 black men are HIV positive and one in 160 black women are HIV positive. About 60 percent of all new HIV infections come from the black community.

Celibacy anyone?

Compare these numbers to whites, where one in 250 white men are infected with the virus and one in 3,000 white women are infected. 

Besides HIV/AIDS, blacks are significantly more likely to die from cancer, stroke, accidental injuries, the flu and pneumonia, diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver than our white counterparts. 

Overall, the top killer in the black community is heart disease. This threat is the top killer for both blacks and whites, but blacks often don't seek treatment until it is too late.

However, all of these deaths are not self-inflicted. 

According to an issue of Ebony (July 2001), the leading killer for blacks in their late teens to early 20s is homicide, mostly from the hands of another black.

There's no future there.

Black Future Month. A good month. A great month, even.

Singleton, a columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at



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