A recent US study found that one in seven African Americans surveyed said they believed that AIDS was created by the Government to control the black population, one in three said they believed HIV was produced in a government laboratory, and more than half said that there was a cure for HIV/AIDS that was being withheld from the poor.
While the conspiracy theories are understandable, considering the history of discrimination that African Americans have faced, there is a real risk that they will frustrate efforts to halt the epidemic in this community, writes the editorial. More than half of new HIV cases reported in the USA are in African Americans.
The Lancet believes that public-health officials working against the spread of HIV/ AIDS need to acknowledge, address and discuss the roots of the conspiracy theories and mistrust prevalent in the African American community.
Michael McCarthy, North American Editor of The Lancet, states: "It is unlikely that men and women who believe the government has created HIV will listen to the government's health warnings, come in for testing, or take recommended treatments. To reach those at greatest risk, public-health officials need to recruit and train more black peer educators and need to craft sex education messages that are culturally suited to black Americans. Government and health officials must also address the very real discrimination that continues to exist within the US health-care system. It is also of paramount importance that black community leaders and black media outlets make challenging these conspiracy theories a priority."