February 7, 2013 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that black Americans accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections in 2010, despite making up only 14% of the population. That year, HIV incidence among blacks was almost eight times higher than that of whites.
Black women account for 57 percent of all new HIV infections among women nationwide; but black men—especially those who have sex with men—are disproportionately affected. In 2010, black men represented almost one-third of all new HIV infections in the United States. Of those, 72% were men who have sex with men (MSM).
The numbers speak to vast unmet medical and social service needs among black MSM:
- Black men who have sex with men comprise less than 1 percent of the U.S. population but more than 20 percent of new HIV infections
- One in four Black MSM are already infected with HIV by the time they reach age 25. By age 40, 60% of Black MSM are living with HIV.
- In a CDC-sponsored 21-city survey of MSM, 59% of Black MSM found to be HIV-positive were previously unaware of their infection, compared to only 26% of white MSM.
- Among young men ages 13-24, Black MSM are 14 times more likely to test HIV-positive than white MSM.
Last year, results from the HPTN-061 study showed that black MSM under the age of 30 acquired HIV infection at three times the rate of white MSM in the U.S. The study’s Project Director at The Fenway Institute, Ben Perkins, had this to say:
The truth is that these troubling HIV infection rates are associated with underlying issues of stigma, discrimination, joblessness, homelessness, incarceration, and trauma. Any attempts to address the HIV problem will, therefore, by necessity, need to tackle these issues in order to make a real and lasting impact in the epidemic.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an opportunity to renew our focus and enlist new support as we tackle these issues. The events organizers are encouraging participants to:
Get educated. BlackAIDSDay.org is a great resource for learning more about how HIV/AIDS impacts black communities. Educating yourself and others can help reduce the stigma that prevents people from getting tested or treated for HIV.
Get involved. Talk to your peers, family, faith communities, and elected officials about this important issue. Use social media to help raise awareness on February 7. (Tag tweets about National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with #NBHAAD.)
Get treated. Early treatment of HIV can leader to better health outcomes in HIV-positive individuals, and it can also reduce the risk of spreading the disease to others. If you test positive, talk to your care provider about treatment options right away. If you’re not currently in care, use the AIDS.gov locator to find an HIV care provider near you.