Nine years ago, five organizations collaborated with the Center for Disease Control to make February 7th of every year National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a day that exists to raise awareness about the impact of the disease in the Black Community. The day aims to mobilize African Americans to get educated, get involved and tested, and if applicable, get treatment for HIV/AIDS.
African Americans are only 12 percent of the United States population, but account for almost half of all new HIV/AIDS infections. This statistic speaks volumes as to the state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Prevention of the disease is priority, and efforts are affected by many factors:
- Poverty - A quarter of African Americans live at or below the poverty level. This causes a lack of access to good healthcare, which then puts people’s well-being at risk.
- Stigma - The stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in the Black community prevents openness and drives people to keep their statuses under wraps. For others, stigma and fear keeps them from even getting tested.
- Sexually transmitted diseases – Already having certain STDs increases one’s susceptibility to contracting HIV. African Americans are 18 times more likely than whites to have gonorrhea.
- Drug use – The injection of drugs is the second leading cause of HIV infection in Black Americans. Also, being under the influence of drugs make people more likely to engage in risky behavior like unprotected sex.
Chicago’s HIV/AIDS epidemic mirrors the numbers on the national level (these numbers are from 2006. Last time they were collected).
- Of the 316 women diagnosed with HIV in 2006, 80% of them were Black.
- Black people represent 55% of HIV diagnoses in 2006.
- Two-thirds of the Black men diagnosed were MSM (men who have sex with other men)
The fight against HIV/AIDS in the Black community must continue. Not just on February 7th, but every day.
Get educated. Get tested. Get Involved. Get treated.