Infection rates continue to climb.
If you actually consider it, Black History Month is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that America pauses for a few weeks and acknowledges the many valuable contributions African-Americans have made to the fabric of the nation. It’s a curse, however, in that while celebrating the tremendous successes and achievements of black people, many Americans forget that, in a whole host of ways, blacks are still struggling.
That’s why it’s probably good that National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is observed on Feb. 7. In its 11th year, the day, a time to get tested for HIV, speak with your family and friends about the illnesses and learn more yourself, is an important reminder that although we’ve made some magnificent strides, the black community still has a long way to go. (See more on NBHAAD here)
As it stands, blacks accounted for 46 percent of people living with HIV in the 37 reporting states and five U.S.-dependent areas in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in 2006, blacks accounted for 45 percent of all the new HIV infections in the U.S. Black men are especially vulnerable, accounting for 65 percent of all the new HIV cases in the black community in 2006. Black men are six times more likely than white men to get HIV, and three times more likely than Latino men. They’re also twice as likely to become infected than black women.
Exacerbating everything is the fact that when blacks do get HIV/AIDS, they’re more likely to die from the disease than their counterparts of other ethnicities. In 2006, HIV was the third leading cause of death for black men and women between the ages of 35 and 44.
This problem is terrifying and deadly, and ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. So as much as it may hurt, it’s important to acknowledge the scourge of AIDS this month while also celebrating our past and future leaders. A brighter day is ahead, but we’ll have to see some darkness to get there.
Image: Don Bayley / iStockphoto