Black History Month is a time when we can reflect on the lives of the loved ones we have lost to AIDS.
In Black America, HIV continues to be a crisis. Feb. 7 marks the 15th annual observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD).
In San Francisco on Friday, Feb. 6, there will be a town hall meeting, “Our Health Matters,” at Glide Memorial in the Freedom Hall, starting at 6 p.m., 330 Ellis St. The event is free and refreshments will be provided.
In Oakland on Saturday, Feb. 7, a free luncheon and town hall meeting will be held on the state of HIV/AIDS in the Black community from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Preservation Park’s Ginn House, 660 13th St. The event is free but requires pre-registration at eventbrite.com.
The overall theme, “We are Our Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper,” emphasizes that – regardless of sexual orientation, economic class or educational levels – we each can play an important role in solving the HIV epidemic in Black communities. No one is coming to save us – we must save ourselves.
To end the epidemic, we have to address the spread of HIV in Black America. In 2000, the CDC marked a U.S. AIDS milestone. Seventeen years after the beginning of the epidemic, cases among Black Americans exceeded those among whites.
Black AIDS Awareness Day was established in 1999 to encourage more Blacks to get tested, to get educated on the importance of HIV prevention, and how crucial early detection and treatment is.
Today, Black Americans account for half of the more than 1 million Americans living with HIV. African Americans continue to constitute nearly half of the new HIV infections in the country, and half of those who die from AIDS each year.
Young Black men, particularly our gay and bisexual youth, continue to be the hardest hit with continuing diagnoses of new infections occurring more often in this group than any other in this country.
However, there is some good news. Infections among Black women started declining in 2013 for the first time in over a decade. We can continue to reduce these numbers of infections among Black women and begin to do so for Black men.
We know that HIV is preventable and there are things we can do to protect ourselves and our partners. The journey starts with educating ourselves, our friends, and neighbors in the community about HIV.
With new advances in HIV treatment and prevention, an AIDS-free generation is possible. Everyone knowing their status is a crucial step. African Americans are more likely to get tested for HIV than others, yet two out of five Black people living in the U.S. still have not been tested.
New infections are happening through people unaware of their status. When one knows their status, they are more likely to protect their partners. If infected with HIV, early treatment can lower the level of virus in the body, help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives and lower the chance of passing HIV to sexual partners.
Stigma and homophobia continues to prevent too many African-Americans from seeking treatment, testing and support. We must begin to talk openly about HIV, speaking to our children, our peers, and our partners about it, pushing through discomfort or denial.
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