- February 7, 2014
Every year, on February 7, the nation focuses its attention on the disproportionate impact HIV/AIDS has on the African-American community. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “African Americans have the most severe burden of HIV of all racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Compared with other races and ethnicities, African Americans account for a higher proportion of new HIV infections, those living with HIV, and those ever diagnosed with AIDS.”
As the CDC and other experts have pointed out, high rates of HIV/AIDS among African-Americans are not the result of high-risk behavior, but rather, structural inequalities that make them more likely to come in contact with the virus and less able to treat it. Some of these structural inequalities include poverty, stigma, racism, homophobia and housing discrimination.
The theme of this year’s National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day– I Am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper – emphasizes the important role we all have in ending the epidemic, particularly among African-Americans. Here are four things you can do to be part of the solution:
· Get educated: Visit the CDC's HIV Basics page for common questions and answers on HIV prevention, transmission, and testing. You can also check out HRC’s Issue Brief on HIV/AIDS and the LGBT Community.
· Get tested: CDC recommends that health care providers test all patients between the ages of 13 and 64 at least once as part of routine health care. Some groups should be tested at least once a year, if not more. Remember, the results of a negative HIV test expire every time you have sex without a condom or share injection drug equipment. To find a testing site near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), visit the National HIV and STD Testing Resources page, or text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948). You can also use one of the two FDA-approved home testing kits available in drugstores or online.
· Get involved. Raise awareness and fight stigma by sharing your story, volunteering in your community, or caring for someone who is living with HIV.
· Get treated. If you are HIV-positive, start treatment as soon as possible with antiretroviral therapy (ART), and stay on treatment. ART can lower the level of virus in your body enough to improve your health and greatly decrease your chance of spreading HIV to your partners. See CDC's Living with HIV page.
Other helpful resources include the 2014 National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Toolkit– which provides step-by-step processes on how to plan events and activities surrounding NBHAAD – as well as the CDC’s Testing Makes Us Stronger campaign and the Greater than AIDS Empowered campaign, which focuses on African American women.
Tell us how you plan to observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the comments below. Click here to find out how HRC is working to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the stigma surrounding the disease.