African Americans and HIV/AIDS
By race/ethnicity, African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV in the United States. At the end of 2007, Blacks accounted for almost half (46%) of people living with a diagnosis of HIV infection in the 37 states and 5 U.S.-dependent areas with long-term, confidential, name-based HIV reporting.
In 2006, blacks accounted for nearly half (45%) of new infections in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Even though new HIV infections among blacks overall have been roughly stable since the early 1990s, compared with members of other races and ethnicities, they continue to account for a higher proportion of cases at all stages of HIV–from new infections to deaths.
As the impact of the epidemic among African Americans has grown, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local public health agencies, and African American communities have stepped up efforts to address the crisis. One of their efforts includes National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. A group of national organizations, in partnership with CDC, has created and implemented activities focused on motivating African Americans to get tested and learn their HIV status, as well as educating community members about the importance of HIV prevention, early detection, and treatment.
Why are African Americans more severely burdened?
The reasons are not directly related to race or ethnicity, but rather to some of the barriers faced by many in black communities across the country. To end this epidemic, we must confront the Social Determinants that continue to place African Americans at greater risk of contracting HIV.
Social Determinants of Health are the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work, and age, as well as the systems put in place to deal with illness. Many of the same social and environmental factors that put African Americans at risk for other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes are the very ones fueling the HIV epidemic in black communities.
Frequently, we know that if you don’t have the means to see a doctor, you may not get an HIV test or treatment early in the disease cycle, when treatment can be most effective. In 2007, nearly 1 in 5 African Americans were without health insurance versus just over 10% of whites. This disparity places African Americans at greater risk for late detection of a number of diseases.
Additionally, in order to decrease the burden of HIV in the black community, people must be comfortable talking and learning about HIV and HIV testing, treatment and support. Homophobia, stigma, and discrimination persist in the United States and negatively affect the health and well-being of many Americans.
While we each have a personal responsibility to protect our own health, we must also work together to remove these barriers in order to turn the tide on the HIV epidemic in the Black community.
For 11 years now, February 7th has been designated as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). NBHAAD is a national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative designed to encourage blacks across the United States and territorial areas to get educated, get tested, get treated, and get involved with HIV/AIDS prevention. Currently, NBHAAD is directed, planned, and organized by a group known as the Strategic Leadership Council, which partners with CDC to mobilize communities and address specific issues related to local epidemics and best practices that will influence the course of HIV in black communities across the country.
The theme for 2011 is It takes a village to fight HIV/AIDS!–with the hope that we challenge misconceptions about HIV in the black community. We are asking you to become the voice for change by promoting the objectives of NBHAAD–education, testing, involvement, and/or treatment. All people, regardless of lifestyle or HIV status, can and should get involved with spreading the HIV/AIDS prevention message to their families and communities.