February 7, 2012 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. In its twelfth year, NBHAAD highlights the disproportionate impact HIV/AIDS has on the black community and four areas through which positive change can be achieved: education, testing, involvement, and treatment.
This conversation is as vital today as it was on the first National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day over a decade ago. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV.
- In 2009, African Americans comprised 14% of the US population but accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections.
- An estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes.
HIV/AIDS awareness, testing, and treatment are especially important to men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender individuals of color. The CDC states:
In 2009, black men who have sex with men (MSM) represented an estimated 73% of new infections among all black men, and 37% among all MSM. More new HIV infections occurred among young black MSM (aged 13–29) than any other age and racial group of MSM. In addition, new HIV infections among young black MSM increased by 48% from 2006–2009.
And the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reports an astoundingly high rate of HIV infection among black transgender respondents (25% compared to 2.4% in the African American general population). Data from CDC-funded HIV testing programs show that in 2009, the rate of new HIV infections among transgender persons was 2.6% compared to 0.9% for cisgender males and .03% for cisgender females.
The percentage of newly identified HIV infections was highest among black transgender individuals at 4.4%.
Changing the reality of HIV/AIDS in black communities will take more than a day; but NBHAAD is an opportunity for us all to educate ourselves and others as well as recommit to our own health (practice safer sex, get tested, seek treatment!) and encourage others to do the same. It is also an opportunity to contact your elected officials to tell them that you support HIV/AIDS funding and other programs that reduce health inequity for people of color, the LGBT community, and low-income families and individuals.
For more information on HIV/AIDS in the black community—in addition to the resources linked above—visit the Black AIDS Institute’s website. Not only do they have fantastic suggestions for NBHAAD actions, their publications contain a wealth of information on this important topic.
And if you’re in the Boston area and would like to get tested, Fenway: Sixteen offers walk-in hours Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Testing is also available in Jamaica Plain through our partners at the Multicultural AIDS Coalition (MAC). And if you’ve already been tested recently, be sure to share these resources with friends.