The HIV/AIDS epidemic was first reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) back in 1981. Almost immediately, rumors began to spread like wildfire that the deadly virus was concocted to destroy the Black race. But how could such a theory develop?
From the time HIV/AIDS hit the mainstream news, many Blacks believed that it was created in a laboratory and spread by the CIA with the goal of killing Blacks. However, round-the-way Black folk weren't the only ones to believe in this conspiracy theory.
Case in point, post-apartheid South African President Thabo Mbeki once accused the U.S. government of manufacturing the disease in their military labs and world-renowned Kenyan ecologist, Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Wangari Maathai used her international spotlight to give credence to the conspiracy theory about the creation of HIV/AIDS. After accepting her prestigious honor, the first African female Nobel laureate used her acceptance platform to state, that the deadly virus was created as a biological weapon by the west to wipe out Blacks:
"AIDS is not a curse from God to Africans or the Black people. It is a tool to control them designed by some evil-minded scientists, " according to Maathai.
Even passionate preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright was rebuked by his former congregant President Barack Obama for giving sermons in which he blamed the government for creating a racist state and "inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color."
The fact that many Blacks thought that HIV/AIDS was created to destroy Black people is actually not so far-fetched. Past sins of the U.S. government against Blacks have indicated that our lives were not valued.
Na'im Akbar, a renowned clinical psychologist who specializes in African-American behavior, told the Washington Post in an interview that was conducted on Blacks and the conspiracy theory surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic, "This is not a bunch of crazy people running around saying they're out to get us," Akbar said. The belief "comes from the reality of 300 years of slavery and 100 years of post-slavery exploitation." He also cited the Tuskegee syphilis experiment that was the ultimate betrayal of trust for Blacks against the U.S. government and was not a conspiracy theory by a long shot.
The Tuskegee syphilis study began in 1932. The experiment became a powerful symbol of racism in medicine and ethical misconduct in human research and legitimately fostered government mistrust.
The study enrolled 400 poor Black men with syphilis from Macon County, Ga., in a program that supposedly treated them for "bad blood," which was a local catch-all term used to describe several maladies. For their participation in the study, the unsuspecting men were given free exams, free meals, and free burial insurance.
When penicillin became the cure for the disease in 1947, the medicine was withheld from the subjects.
The Tuskegee scientists wanted to continue with their experiment to study how syphilis progresses, then kills. The experiment lasted four decades until it was leaked to the media. By this time, dozens of Blacks had died, with many wives and children also becoming infected and succumbing to the devastating effects of the illness.
It was not until May 16, 1997, under President Bill Clinton, that a formal apology was issued to the victims' survivors, stating that what the government did to those Black men was shameful, racist, and morally wrong.
Therefore, it clearly isn't a long shot that Blacks would also believe that HIV/AIDS was in fact created by the constitutional governing body that was put in place to supposedly protect them as a people.
As late as 2005, a study was conducted by the research organization the Rand Corporation and Oregon State University that stated that a large proportion of African Americans STILL embraced the notion that AIDS/HIV was engineered for the sole purpose of wiping them out as a people.
Nearly half of the 500 African Americans surveyed by the researchers said that HIV is man-made, more than one-quarter said they believed that AIDS was produced in a government laboratory, and 12 percent believed it was created and spread by the CIA. Fifty-three percent said they believed that a cure for AIDS is being withheld from the poor.
About 16 percent agreed that AIDS was created by the government to control the Black population. Lastly, about 15 percent said AIDS is a form of genocide against Black people.
Though the co-discoverers of HIV, Dr. Robert Gallo and Dr. Luc Montagnier don't agree on its origins, most members of the scientific community believe the virus jumped from monkeys to humans some time during the 1930s.
Whatever the conspiracy theory surrounding HIV/AIDS, the real facts are that African Americans are most affected by HIV in the United States, according to the CDC.
In 2009, African Americans comprised 14 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections.
Young Black gay and bisexual men are especially at risk of HIV infection, and Black women accounted for 30 percent of the estimated new HIV infections among all Blacks. Most (85 percent) Black women with HIV acquired it through heterosexual sex.
Clearly, HIV/AIDS is real: The virus has hit the Black community worldwide with a full-force impact that has shaken us to our very core. The only way to combat the deadly effects of the virus is to educate the masses, understand how risk-reduction behaviors can be life-saving practices, and get tested!