February 7 marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, dedicated to reducing the number of new HIV infections among the black population in the United States through education and action. While blacks represent approximately 14 percent of the U.S. population, they account for almost half of people living with HIV in the U.S.
Within the African American community, gay and bisexual men are the most affected, followed by women, who account for 57 percent of all new HIV infections among women nationwide. They represent one of the fastest growing populations infected with HIV, and face a number of unique risk factors and socioeconomic issues that can affect diagnosis and engagement in care. An understanding of cultural beliefs, poverty, substance abuse and other factors is critical to addressing the epidemic among these diverse groups of women.
On February 8 [Due to anticipated blizzard conditions in Massachusetts, the conference has been postponed. Check the event RSVP page for new details], in collaboration with the Multicultural Aids Coalition (MAC), Fenway Health will host a day-long a conference for medical providers, public health professionals and students. MAC will kick off the day’s event with workshops aimed at increasing knowledge of the populations of women at risk for HIV in the Boston area and the barriers to care they face. In the afternoon, Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, will discuss disparities in HIV incidence and describe how these and other issues affect clinical outcomes. Dr. Khady Diouf, an associate OBGYN at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who specializes in infectious disease and HIV, will provide an overview of reproductive issues for women with HIV.
You can learn more about the conference here. Registration is required, but there is no fee to attend the conference.
If you aren’t a medical provider or are unable to attend the training, there is plenty you can do to recognize National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day:
- Educate yourself and share what you know with family, friends and colleagues. The CDC has a number of resources about HIV among women and an Act Against Aids website with basic HIV/AIDS facts, testing resources and more.
- Get tested. Check out the Fenway calendar for walk-in testing hours, or visit Aids.gov to find a testing center near you.
- Talk about it. Have ongoing and open discussions about sexual health and risk with your partners. Sharing openly can reduce the stigma, and make people more comfortable with getting tested and seeking support.