Tuesday, February 7, marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). Founded in 1999 by five HIV/AIDS organizations that are funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the goal of this day is to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black America.
There are four major aspects that NBHAAD focuses on: education, testing, involvement and treatment. They explain:
Educationally, the focus is to get Blacks educated about the basics of HIV/AIDS in their local communities. Testing is at the core of this initiative, as it is hoped that Blacks will mark February 7th of every year as their annual or biannual day to get tested for HIV. This is vital for those who are sexually active and those at high risk of contracting HIV. When it comes to community and organization leadership, getting Blacks involved to serve is another key focus. We need Black People from all walks of life, economic classes, literacy levels, shades and tones as well as communities (large and small) to get connected to the work happening on the ground in their local areas. And lastly, for those living with HIV or newly testing positive for the virus, getting them connected to treatment and care services becomes paramount.
It's not a secret that African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS.
AIDS is the No. 1 killer of Black women aged 24 to 35. Black men who have sex with men (MSM) have the highest HIV rate among all racial groups of MSM. Overall, while African-Americans make up a mere 13 percent of the overall U.S. population, we account for almost half of all new HIV infections that are diagnosed each year. And to make matters worse, African-Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at the same time than any other racial group, meaning they're less likely to get tested until they're very ill.
It has also been estimated that each year, 20,000 African-Americans test positive for HIV. And an estimated 1 in 16 Black men will be diagnosed with HIV infection at some point in their lifetime, as will 1 in 32 Black women. And new infections among African-American youth are on the rise.
Of all Black men living with HIV/AIDS, the primary transmission category was sexual contact with other men, followed by injection drug use and high-risk heterosexual contact. Of all Black women living with HIV/AIDS, the primary transmission category was high-risk heterosexual contact, followed by injection drug use.
Even with these daunting statistics, it's important to keep in mind that HIV/AIDS does not have to be our legacy. This disease is 100 percent preventable: The key is using condoms consistently, getting tested every year and learning as much as you possibly can about this disease.
Remember, knowledge about HIV/AIDS means power and power means saving lives.
Want to get tested? Go to hivtest.org to find a testing center in your area.
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