Post submitted by Noël Gordon, former HRC Senior Program Specialist for HIV Prevention and Health Equity.

Today marks National Black HIV & AIDS Awareness Day, an opportunity to focus the nation’s attention on the impact of HIV and AIDS on Black/African Americans.

This year, our minds are on Michael Johnson, a Black gay man from St. Louis who was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for allegedly violating Missouri’s HIV transmission and exposure statute. In more than 30 states, including Missouri, people living with HIV can be tried and imprisoned simply because a partner accuses them of withholding their HIV status. There’s no proof these law work, and they run counter to public health by perpetuating stigma and subsequently deterring people from getting tested or treated for HIV.

According to Buzzfeed, Johnson is now awaiting a new trial after the Missouri Court of Appeals threw out his conviction because prosecutors deliberately withheld evidence from the defense to gain “a strategic advantage.” HRC was proud to join a number of public health and civil rights organization in filing an amicus brief on Johnson’s behalf, and we continue to oppose such outdated and draconian laws. Click here to learn more about Johnson and ways to support him.

Fast Facts from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention:

  • Of all racial and ethnic groups, Black/African Americans bear the biggest brunt of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
  • If current trends continue uninterrupted, one in two Black gay and bisexual men will contract HIV in their lifetimes.  
  • Black transgender women have the highest percentage of new HIV-positive test results when compared to other transgender women.

Prevention Challenges:

  • High prevalence rates - The comparatively large percentage of Black/African Americans living with HIV means that, as a group, we have a much greater chance of coming into contact with HIV whether knowingly or not.
  • Socioeconomic factors - Black/African Americans are more likely to be impoverished, which can mean limited access to quality and affordable healthcare and healthcare insurance, as well as housing instability.
  • Stigma and discrimination - Many Black/African Americans delay getting tested or treated for HIV out of fear of stigma and discrimination.

Ways to Learn More and Get Involved:

HRC is committed to working with our friends, partners, members, and supporters to end the dual epidemics of HIV and HIV-related stigma. Click here to learn more about our work, and join be sure to join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #BeInTheKnow and #NBHAAD.

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