This Wednesday, February 7th is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day across the United States. Why does the black community have its own day to mark the illness?
Because the population remains disproportionately affected, and leaders wish for change.
“Many people across the country are oblivious to the fact that communities of color are still bending under the weight of HIV,” says June Gipson, PhD, CEO of My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. and NBHAAD Strategic Leadership Council chair for 2018.
“We still have an unyielding responsibility to encourage each other to remain educated, and tested, and to sustain environments where prevention and care are paramount. The fight is not over.”
Impressively, spokespersons for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) include former President Barack H. Obama during his term as Illinois Senator, actress Kimberly Elise, congressman Elijah E. Cummings and Congresswoman Barbara Lee- all successful African Americans.
It’s their hope that through education, black communities can lower current rates of infection. They also wish to promote HIV prevention, in order to see a thriving tomorrow for all.
Which is possible. The YouTube video below tells the story of Antron, who found out in college that he was HIV positive and is now living with the illness. Robin, Barbara, Michelle, and Robert are doing so as well. (You can watch their stories by clicking on each name).
The message is that today, despite the statistics, there is hope.
African Americans form the ethnic group that is most affected by HIV in the country. In 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), black Americans accounted for 45% of all HIV diagnoses, while comprising just 12% of the American population.
One in 8 of those infected in this group didn’t know they were infected, and thus hadn’t sought out essential treatment.
Why are the rates so high? While far from every black American lives in poverty, experts believe socioeconomic issues associated with this level of living are at least partially, if not entirely, to blame.
Having limited income is often associated with having a limited access to high-quality health care, good housing and HIV prevention education. African Americans may also experience lowers rates of being connected with HIV care once they’re diagnosed. They could have less access to viral suppression drugs, which worsens the situation and leads to an early death.
HIV infection rates are high in some black communities include those living in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Jackson, Los Angeles and Miami. Rates are also high in New Orleans, Newark, New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco, Trenton and Washington, D.C
What can you do to help? Get educated, get tested, get involved and get treated for HIV/AIDS- you deserve it.