National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Has Major Significance for African Americans

By Jesse Brooks Coinciding with Black History Month, February 7th is the 10th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) and this year, the day carries a heightened significance. AIDS is a leading killer of black men and women. Many of those who are infected with the disease are unaware of their HIV status and may unknowingly transmit the virus to others. This is why it’s critical for blacks to get educated, get tested, get treated and get involved! In 2000, the CDC marked a U.S. AIDS milestone, for the first time U.S. African Americans and Latino cases exceeded those among whites. NBHAAD dates back to 1999, when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) funded five national non-profit organizations known then as the Community Capacity Building Coalition (CCBC). On February 23, 2001, the CCBC organized the first annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The date was changed to February 7 the following year (2002) and is now recognized on February 7th of each year. The day was established to encourage more blacks to be tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and to educate the black community regarding the importance of HIV prevention, early detection, and treatment. This year’s theme is “HIV/AIDS Prevention-A Choice and a Lifestyle!” The impact of HIV/AIDS on African Americans is a public health crisis that we must face as a nation and address boldly. Nearly 27 years into the AIDS epidemic, approximately half of the new HIV infections that occur each year in the United States are among African Americans, even though they represent only 13 percent of the U.S. population. The virus plagues every segment of the African American community: in 2005, black women accounted for two-thirds of newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases among U.S. women, and black men accounted for half of new diagnoses among U.S. men. A recent study in five large U.S. cities found that 46 percent of black men who have sex with men were infected with HIV. Only dramatic action will reverse this calamity. The expected outcomes as NBHAAD are to: Increase proportion of Black Americans that know their HIV status; Increase awareness of the state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black communities and among high risk populations. Increased leadership, support, collaboration and coordination of HIV services for Black Americans among community stakeholders, public and private health care providers at all levels, the business, entertainment and faith communities and elected officials. Increased capacity for health departments, community based organizations and stakeholders to implement NBHAAD at local levels and to marshal resources and support for HIV prevention services. • A large part of the challenge for Blacks is testing late for HIV; as a result, some are immediately given an AIDS diagnosis and are further along in the disease process leaving them with fewer treatment options. In the Black community, HIV/AIDS is a leading cause of death, where Blacks with AIDS often don’t live as long as people of other ethnic groups. Since this epidemic began, more than 230,000 Blacks have died from HIV/AIDS – let’s do the math. 230,000 divided by 29 years (1981) equals 7,931 per year divided by 365 days in a year means 21 Black people die per day to this epidemic. • Now is the time for treatment to become real for many. We need Black people to survive and let National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2010 be the day you decide to have a conversation with your doctor about getting tested and should you test positive for HIV, have an additional conversation about when to start treatment. • Local events are: • San Francisco (Friday-february 5th): SFDPH Office of AIDS will host an event, starting at City Hall (@ Polk Street at 5:00 pm, and MARCH to the CASTRO. A wonderful program will commence at the Harvey Milk Academy at 6:30 pm. Lastly, we will put on our dancing shoes at 10pm at BLACKOUT! • Oakland (Saturday-February 6th): The Office of AIDS Administration, Get Screened Oakland, and Volunteers of America Bay Area will host an event to recognize National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness. Bench & Bar, 510-17th Street in downtown Oakland from 9pm – 1am. There will be food, games, prizes, comedy by SHANG, and free RAPID (oral) HIV testing with results in 20 minutes. • Oakland (Saturday-February 6th,): Ambassadors for Change Live CD recording. A free event, as this local renowned choir records their second CD, with their new HIV anthem, “It won’t Last” Love Center Ministries 10110 International blvd, Oakland 7:00 pm . For questions and comments, email jessebrooksii@gmail.com or call 510-575-8245.
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