Many forget rapper Eazy-E's warning AIDS: Statistics show that while other groups are successfully dealing with HIV, blacks are dying faster than ever. The question is, why?

November 16, 1997|By Rosemary Harris

Who remembers Eric Wright?

Who remembers that swagger? That Jheri-Curl? That AK-47 he used in his publicity shots?

Who remembers that rapper who made a name rhyming about his "ruthless" Compton, Calif., lifestyle - about wild women, 40-ounce bottles of St. Ides malt liquor and shootouts with high-caliber weapons?

Who remembers how Eric Wright, more popularly known as "Eazy-E" of the gangsta rap quintet N.W.A., died?

On March 26, 1995, at age 31, Eric Wright died from complications of the AIDS virus.

Remember?

His death was front page news because of his celebrity, because of the way he lived, and yes, because of the way he died.

Eric Wright should have become a poster child for acquired immune deficiency syndrome and human immunodeficiency virus prevention, especially in black America, where the diminutive rapper was larger than life in some circles.

He even released a statement that, in part, said: "Abstain from sex and abstain from intravenous drug use. But if you do those things, remember to wear a latex condom and remember to never share a needle."

The news shows that many forgot.

African-Americans are becoming infected with HIV, and dying of AIDS, at a greater rate than any other part of the population.

I'm troubled when anyone dies needlessly - famous or anonymous, black, white or otherwise. But this AIDS thing in the black community is particularly troubling.

While statistics show that others are successfully battling HIV, black folks are dying faster than ever. Why are African-Americans losing the struggle against HIV? Sociologists and medical professionals note lots of reasons.

* Reason No. 1: Black people are in denial.

* Reason No. 2: Black people are suspicious of the medical profession.

* Reason No. 3: Black people believe we don't get AIDS because AIDS is a white, homosexual male disease.

We ought to look a bit closer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says every black person should know three words:

AIDS doesn't discriminate.

Most of the women in this country with AIDS are African-American.

The majority of the babies in this country with AIDS are African-American.

The fastest-growing group of teen-agers in this country with AIDS is African-American.

People are not at risk because of their race or ethnicity. People are at risk because of their behaviors.

People are at risk because few are willing to talk about this.

Who remembers when homicide was the leading cause of death for African-American males?

Well, forget that.

Now it's AIDS.

Rosemary Harris is a columnist for The Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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