INDIANAPOLIS — After a year of having raw and — at times — difficult conversations about race and inequality, compounded by a global pandemic, health advocates say now is the time to pull back the curtains and talk about what hasn’t been for years.
Born on the south side of Indianapolis, Harold Brown is a life-long health advocate, having battled HIV/AIDS himself for 43 years.
“I’ve been treated horribly because I’m gay and black and had HIV/AIDS,” Brown said.
When the coronavirus hit the United States last year, it strongly impacted communities of color.
“This was a mark right then and there last June to say that hey there’s a problem here,” Brown said.
According to Brown, people finally took notice of the challenges plaguing minority communities that are creating major health disparities.
“There is no hospital,” said Brown. “There’s not one that sits in the middle of any one black neighborhood in Indianapolis. We have 16 hospitals. We have to go to the hospital. If you don’t have a car, if you don’t have a phone, if you don’t have an iPad, you can’t get into the portal.”
“We are in poverty,” Brown said. “60% of the school children in Indianapolis live below poverty. We have to give children food a public space because parents can’t afford to have children.”
Brown said it is constant stress.
“Health gets worsened by the stress and the distress that persons have to deal with in disparities,” Brown said.
“Until we affect medical schools and until we affect hospital organizations to say stop asking us to come to you because we’ve been doing this for years,” Brown said. “When are you going to bring the clinics to us? And don’t tell us about the threat and the danger and what have you, because we have to walk through it to get to you.”
Brown said we all have a personal responsibility to care for ourselves and to care for one another.
“Don’t think that you can just get by taking care of yourself the way you want to. We need each other.”
When there is injustice, use your voice.
“Go ask for the president of the hospital if you’ve been mistreated, go ask for the chief of the emergency room if you have been mistreated,” he said. “This is something that is both a personal responsibility and a community responsibility.”
And extend a loving hand.
“We know that all of us are human beings," Brown said. "We have the ability to love and care. We have the ability to think and solve problems.”
Groups like the Red Cross, United Way, NAACP and Urban League can advocate for you, if you struggle navigating the health care system.