Twelve years ago this month, five organizations dedicated to African-American wellness, including Concerned Black Men, Inc. of Philadelphia and Health Watch Information and Promotion Services, came together to try and fight the scourge of AIDS. HIV and AIDS continue to be a serious issue throughout the world, but for the past several years it’s been a problem of particular relevance to African-Americans, who now suffer from HIV/AIDS at wildly disproportionate rates. In 2009, despite being just 14 percent of the population, African-Americans comprised 44 percent of all new HIV infections. Things have gotten so bad, in fact, that AIDS is now the leading cause of death in Black women ages 25 to 34.
Twelve years later, tomorrow America will once again honor what those five organizations founded all those years ago, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. What was once a collaboration between just a handful of organizations is now an annual quest by Black groups around the country to remind the world of the problems African-Americans face with AIDS; NBHAAD is also a day for Blacks — and anyone else for that matter — to get tested for HIV, to ensure that the illness isn’t spreading any more than it already has.
That NBHAAD has continued for a dozen years thus far is promising and exciting — it’s important for African-Americans to take control of their destiny when it comes to AIDS. Also exciting is that the Centers for Disease Control has joined NBHAAD founders to help them get their message out, showing that the U.S. government is indeed interested in helping end AIDS in the Black community. Alas, despite everyone’s hard work, Blacks still struggle with HIV for a variety of reasons, and things are getting worse, not better.
If anything, consider February 7 not as a holiday, but as a national day of mourning for all the Black men and women we’ve lost to AIDS, and all the ones we’re going to lose until we defeat it.
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