On this, the 12th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, (which is Feb. 7), I remember my sister-in-law’s fight with the disease. Tragically, she did not win that fight – she left behind a devastated husband and five-year old daughter.
But it is in her memory, and the memory of all the friends and loved ones we have lost, that we vow to keep working toward the day when HIV/AIDS is history.
This past December, on World AIDS Day, President Obama spoke about the United States’ commitment to ending HIV/AIDS. In a speech at George Washington University, he told the audience, “Make no mistake, we are going to win this fight. But the fight is not over … not by a long shot.”
Sadly, this is especially true in the African-American community. Black Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, but they account for 44 percent of new HIV infections. Among young Black gay men alone, infections have increased by nearly 50 percent in just three years, and black women account for the largest share of HIV infections among women. We each must do our part by getting tested regularly, and by educating those in our community about what they can do to help end the epidemic.
President Obama is committed to doing his part as well. In 2010, he released the nation’s first comprehensive HIV/AIDS plan. Together with Secretary (Hillary) Clinton, he has helped assemble a coalition of governments, healthcare professionals, and service providers. They have set a goal that would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago: an AIDS-free generation, in which virtually all children are born HIV-free, and prevention tools help them stay HIV-free throughout their lives.
We will not achieve this goal overnight. But we know that we must keep making progress, each and every day. For our communities and our families, the stakes are simply too high for us to be satisfied with anything less.
So today, we do more than commemorate those we have lost. We rededicate ourselves to the work ahead. Because even when it comes to an epidemic as devastating as HIV/AIDS, we have the chance to write our own destiny. As President Obama said in December, “We can end this pandemic. We can beat this disease. We can win this fight.”
For more information about National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and this Administration’s efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in the Black community, visit www.aids.gov.
Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President.
Commemorating National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
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