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Friday is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Free HIV tests at Carson Car Pros

2/6/2014, midnight

The Black AIDS Institute

Tomorrow is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. It’s an opportunity for the nation to take a look at the AIDS epidemic in Black America from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view. Given the demographics of the AIDS epidemic in Los Angeles County, this is a very important day.

The Los Angeles Black Treatment Advocates Network (BTAN) is hosting a Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) forum at the Bayou Grill located at 1400 N. LaBrea Avenue in Inglewood from 5-8 p.m. to raise awareness and educate our community about PrEP. Free HIV testing will be offered.

Here’s why Pre-exposure Prophylaxis of HIV is important to Black people: 35 years into this epidemic and with all we know about HIV, we still have alarming rates of new HIV infections in this country. Roughly 50,000 Americans are infected with HIV every year and 44 percent are Black. In many parts of the country, 1 in 2 Black gay men are already HIV infected-and many of them don’t know it.

Think about it. 60 percent of all people living with HIV in Los Angeles County are people of color. Are you in a committed monogamous relationship? Are all your friends and family members in committed monogamous relationships? If your children are sexually active, are they in committed monogamous relationships with people they know are not infected with HIV? Do you think all your friends and loved ones use condoms with every sexual encounter? If not, you need to know about PrEP.

PrEP is a treatment for people who are not infected with HIV that uses one of the antiretroviral treatments that people with HIV/AIDS use to prevent getting the HIV virus. In clinical trials, when used properly, PrEP reduces the risk of getting the virus by more than 90 percent. That is huge!

If you look at the AIDS epidemic in Black communities, you would not know that we have the tools to end the AIDS epidemic in America. Most Black folks are unaware or have misinformation about the new scientific breakthroughs that could change the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic in our community and dramatically reduce their risk of HIV infection. PrEP is one of them.

Those attending the PrEP forums will learn what PrEP is, who it’s for, how to use it properly, and what the risks and benefits are. And, we will talk about the possible impact of using PreP on condom usage.

Current guidelines recommend PrEP be used with condoms. But for people who have already chosen not to use condoms or are unable to use condoms on a consistent basis for any reason—and there are many—using PrEP provides a high level of protection.

Given the epidemic in Black communities, we need to know everything we can possibly know about all of the tools available to us in order to make informed, rational decisions about which tools to use in which circumstances.

The combination of treatment as prevention with the possibility of reducing infecting others with HIV by over 90 percent—and PrEP with the possibility of reducing getting HIV by over 90 percent—has the promise to break the back of the HIV epidemic in our community. That’s a conversation we must have.

One of the most important things we need to do to fight AIDS is to involve local business. Car Pros Kia of Carson at 21243 S. Avalon Blvd will be sponsoring free HIV testing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow. Many elected officials are scheduled to participate in a press conference and get tested in public. There will be free giveaways, a raffle for a new 2014 Kia Forte, and a raffle for a four-day Carnival Cruise.

“Business owners and entrepreneurs can play a huge role in ending the AIDS epidemic-and many of them would probably by motivated to do so,” says, Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. “A healthy community is good for business. And if you think about it, dead people do not make good customers. Car Pros Kia is an excellent example of a business that is committed to the health and wellbeing of our community.”

For more information about the PrEP Forum, the testing event and raffles at Car Pros Kia call (213) 353-3610 ext 100 or email GeraldG@BlackAIDS.org.