By Jesse Brooks
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day falls during Black history month to remind the public of the devastating toll HIV has taken and continues to take on Black communities.
Feb. 7 marks the 13th year the commemoration will be held as a a day to promote HIV testing, treatment and community mobilization, targeting Blacks in the United States and the Diaspora.
Annually over 20,000 Blacks in the United States test positive for HIV, an alarming number –. that’s 200,000 over the past 10 years who are now living with HIV and may have died from disease-related complications.
There are four specific focal points to the commemorative activities: education, testing, involvement, and treatment. Educationally, the focus is to get Blacks educated about the basics of HIV/AIDS in their local communities.
Testing is at the core of this initiative. It is hoped that African Americans will mark the month of February as an annual or bi-annual time to get tested for HIV.
When it comes to community and organization leadership, getting Blacks involved to serve is another key focus.
And for those living with HIV or newly testing positive for the virus, getting them connected to treatment and care services becomes paramount.
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.
This year’s theme is: “I Am My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS,” emphasizing that all African Americans regardless of sexual orientation, economic class, or educational level, can be an important part of the solution to the HIV epidemic in African American communities.
Now is the time for treatment to become real for many. Let today be the day to decide to get tested. For those who test positive for HIV, start treatment.