February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

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February 7 is the 13th annual observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), an opportunity to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS among African Americans -- the group that bears the greatest burden of the epidemic in the U.S.

Based on the latest surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans account for 44% of all new HIV infections and nearly half of all adults and adolescents living with HIV in the U.S., even though they make up only about 14% of the total population. And while the number of new infections among African-American women has begun to decline, black women still have an HIV incidence rate about 20 times higher than that of white women and 5 times higher than that of Latina women.

The problem is especially alarming among young African-American men -- and in particular young men who have sex with men. More new HIV infections occurred among young (aged 13-24) black gay and bisexual men than among any other age or racial/ethnic groups during the most recent surveillance period.

"A number of underlying factors are causing this disproportionate impact," according to a statement from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). "One key factor is because of the high number of African Americans living with HIV, black Americans face a greater risk of infection with each sexual encounter."

"Stigma, fear, homophobia and negative perceptions about HIV testing also serve to inhibit people from seeking important HIV prevention services, including HIV testing," the NIAID statement continues. "Socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, including access to healthcare, housing, HIV prevention services and access to HIV antiretroviral treatment for the infected, also serve to increase the risk for HIV infection among African-Americans. Further, black Americans continue to experience higher rates of sexually transmitted infections than other racial-ethnic groups, and certain sexually transmitted infections can increase the changes for acquiring and transmitting HIV."  

More than a dozen groups are working together on NBHAAD, described as "an HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative targeted at Blacks in the United States and across the Diaspora" with 4 focal points: education, testing, involvement, and treatment.

"Testing is at the core of this initiative, as it is hoped that Blacks will mark February 7 of every year as their annual or bi-annual day to get tested for HIV," the NBHAAD website urges. "We need Black people from all walks of life, economic classes, literacy levels, shades and tones, as well as small and large communities to get connected to the work happening on the ground in their local areas. Getting those living with HIV or recently tested positive for the virus connected to treatment and care services is paramount."

Resources

2/6/13

Sources

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day web site: www.NationalBlackAIDSDay.org.

NIAID. 13th Annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAIDS/Research/Pages/blackAIDS13.aspx.