"We are all sick because of AIDS - and we are all tested by this crisis. It is a test not only of our willingness to respond, but of our ability to look past the artificial divisions and debates that have often shaped that response.... Yes, there must be more money spent on this disease. But there must also be a change in hearts and minds, in cultures and attitudes. Neither philanthropist nor scientist, neither government nor church, can solve this problem on their own - AIDS must be an all-hands-on-deck effort." — Barack Obama
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness DayThe AIDS epidemic has hit the African American community especially hard. While African Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, they account for more than half of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses.1 On February 7, National Black HIV Awareness Day, we commemmorate the people we have lost to HIV and empower ourselves through knowledge.
Let us unite to address this public health crisis in the black community. Let us promote tolerance and compassion for people infected with HIV and ensure HIV testing, counseling and treatment for all.
Factors that fuel the spread of HIV among African-Americans include lack of quality health care, inadequate education and poverty. 2 Research has shown that African Americans tend to be diagnosed with HIV infection much later and often at a more advanced stage of their illnesses. 3
There is hope
Despite the sobering statistics, there is hope. Public interest in meaningful bio-medical research, including development of an HIV vaccine and microbicides, as well as other treatment advances for persons living with HIV/AIDS, is gaining support. At the HVTN, the Legacy Project works to dispel certain myths about HIV in communities of color. Our goal is to increase the participation of African Americans and Hispanics in HIV vaccine trials and assure that a future HIV vaccine will work for the populations most affected by the virus.
The development of new drug therapies is making HIV infection and AIDS increasingly more manageable. There is a resurgence of broad-based activism along with invigorated political, intellectual, and religious leadership. Additionally, advancements in new HIV prevention strategies, including pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis, and the role of potential precipitators, such as a lack of circumcision and concurrent sexual partnerships, are being recognized and investigated. 4
To win the battle against HIV, it is crucial that African-Americans—and indeed, all Americans—get tested for the virus during routine medical care. Of the estimated 1.1 million Americans living with HIV, one-fifth do not know they are infected, raising the chances of further spreading the virus and the likelihood of becoming very ill without treatment. Increasingly, scientific evidence indicates that beginning treatment for HIV as early as possible in the course of infection has advantages for infected individuals, their partners and their communities. Early treatment appears to improve the odds of staying healthier longer. In addition, treatment can dramatically reduce the amount of HIV in blood and other bodily fluids, decreasing the chances of virus transmission. This is particularly important during the first weeks after infection, when the amount of virus circulating in untreated individuals is extremely high. 5
HIV can be prevented! What you can do:
Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases National Institutes of Health
CDC Fact Sheet on HIV/AIDS among African Americans
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
Black Women's Health Imperative
1 Anthony Fauci, NIAID
2, 4 National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, Why We Can't Wait: The Tipping Point for HIV/AIDS Among African Americans.
3 National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, A Turning Point: Confronting HIV/AIDS in African American Communities.
5 Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases National Institutes of Health
6, 7 blackaidsday.org
8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention