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February 7, 2010 marks the tenth annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States (U.S.). Despite representing 12% of the population, African Americans account for nearly half of all people living with HIV in the U.S. African Americans also account for a disproportionate number (46%) of the 56,000 new HIV cases that take place in the U.S. each year. Black gay men and black heterosexual women comprise the second and third (respectively) largest number of new HIV infections across all racial groups in the U.S. each year. HIV remains the number one killer of black women between the ages of 25 and 34, and CDC estimates that nearly half of all black gay men are infected with HIV in major metropolitan areas.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a chance to get more involved in getting the word out that HIV is preventable and treatable. With greater awareness about how the disease is spread and how to avoid risky behaviors, people can reduce their chance of infection. With appropriate treatment and medication, people living with HIV can live long and productive lives and manage their disease like other chronic illnesses. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to get screened for HIV and to know their HIV status.
One important way that the President has shown his commitment to strengthening our national response to HIV/AIDS in America is through the White House Office of National AIDS Policy’s work in leading the development of a National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The goals of the Strategy are to reduce new infections, increase access to care, and reduce HIV-related disparities. Also, the President’s Budget request for FY 2011 includes $428 million for the Minority AIDS Initiative, an increase of $7 million, to address the disproportionate impact of the disease on minority communities.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a time to remember the men, women, and children who have been affected by the disease, and it’s a time to get more involved in ensuring that more people learn the facts about HIV/AIDS. With better understanding, we can reduce the unnecessary stigma around the disease in African American communities, and people can feel better about taking action to know their status and get linked to appropriate care and treatment.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is not only a time for remembrance, but a time for action. If you are HIV-positive and not in care, take steps to learn how to get connected to care. You can look online at www.aids.gov for federal resources and information that are available to you. If you do not know your status and have not been tested recently, it’s easy to find information about where to get an HIV test. Call1-800-CDC-INFORMATION, or send a text message to “KNOWIT” (566948) with your ZIP code to receive a list of HIV testing sites near you.
Adelle Simmons is a Policy Advisor in the Office of National AIDS Policy