National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: I am my brother’s/sister’s keeper
February 7, 2012 marks the 12th year of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The 2012 theme is “”I am My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS.”
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was founded in 1999 by five national organizations to mobilize the Black community in the U.S. and Diaspora for HIV testing and treatment, education, and involvement.
While only representing 14% of the total U.S. population, Blacks account for 44% of all new HIV infections, according to the most recent information collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2009. Blacks are the most disproportionately impacted racial/ethnic group across all sub-populations in the U.S. — e.g., men, women, youth, men who have sex with men (MSM) – at all stages of the disease, from new infections to deaths. For further information about HIV/AIDS among black Americans, see the CDC fact sheet HIV among African Americans or the CDC’s resource page on the prevention of HIV in Black communities. Another resource is the NBHAAD website. Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to Pres. Obama, has released a statement in commemoration of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and directs people to federal resources on AIDS/HIV at aids.gov. NoMoreDownLow.TV has numerous resources debunking down low myths about HIV/AIDS in Black communities, and giving out the real facts.
According to the CDC, Blacks face a higher risk of exposure to HIV infection with each new sexual encounter because more people are living with HIV in Black communities, and their partners are mostly of the same race/ethnicity. Higher levels of poverty, racial discrimination, limited access to health care and housing, and higher rates of incarceration, all lead to increased HIV risk within Black communities.
About 1 in 5 adults and adolescents in the U.S. living with HIV don’t know they’re infected. This translates nationally to approximately 116,750 persons in the Black community, with Black MSM particularly affected. In 21 major cities, 28% of black MSM were infected with HIV, and 59% of those didn’t know they were infected. Meanwhile, 85 percent of black women newly infected with HIV in 2009 acquired the virus through heterosexual intercourse. Black women have 15 times the rate of HIV infection as white women, and 3 times the rater of Latina women.
Fear of disclosing sexual orientation or risk behavior may prevent people from seeking testing, prevention, and treatment services. The National Black Justice Coalition‘s executive director Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks writes today,
Many of our churches teach abstinence instead of safe sex, insisting that congregants defy their human need to be physically and emotionally connected with others, unless they are married — or straight….
Discussing human sexuality and prevention techniques is not the same as offering an endorsement of or enabling unsafe sexual behaviors. On the contrary, helping our children and church-goers protect themselves is an act of compassion and faith. As parents and clergy, it is our responsibility. We are offering a lifeline to people we love — aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, children, and friends — whom we want to keep healthy and alive, even if the choices they make about their bodies don’t align with ours.
Out of love for our people and ourselves, we have to find constructive ways to embrace human sexuality without judgment. Our people are dying simply because those of us who have the power to save lives have not dealt with our own hang-ups.
What can you do?
- Learn about HIV and AIDS.Educate yourself, friends, and family about HIV and AIDS and what you can do to protect yourself.
- Get tested for HIV. To find a testing site near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), visit http://www.hivtest.org/, or, on your cell phone, text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948). There are numerous testing sites throughout Alaska.
- Speak out against stigma, homophobia, racism, and other forms of discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS.
- Donate time and money to HIV and AIDS organizations that work within black communities, such as the Black AIDS Institute, the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), and Healthy Black Communities, Inc. (HBC).
Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, talks about the HIV/AIDS among African Americans and what steps can be taken on the national, state, local, and individual levels to address the epidemic. Watch:Tags: African-American, HIV and AIDS, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day