Every year, February 7 marks the day for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. What does this mean to you? Did you know that Blacks are only 12% of the population but account for 44% of new HIV infections and 44% of people living with HIV?
If you learned something just now then we are already on the right track with this blog post. The point of having a day specific to Black HIV/AIDS awareness is to educate, encourage testing, increase the number of Blacks getting involved locally, and getting newly diagnosed folks into treatment. These things are important to decrease the burden of HIV on the Black community.
Currently, Black men represent one third of all new HIV infections in the US. Black women account for nearly two thirds of all new infections among women. At this rate, at some point in their lives, approximately 1 in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV, as will 1 in 32 black women.
There are four complex factors that can increase risks for Blacks.
- The first factor is that there is a high amount of Blacks living with HIV. This is a risk factor because blacks are more likely to have sexual relations with other African Americans who may or may not know their HIV status.
- Second, there are also high numbers of Blacks with sexually transmitted infections which increases HIV risks.
- The third risk factor is stigma within the African American community. Due to the stigma, many people, especially those who identify as homosexual, are afraid to seek testing or prevention and treatment services.
- The final risk factor is socioeconomic factors. There are higher levels of poverty, racial discrimination, lack of access to healthcare, and higher rates of incarceration in the Black community. In order to get closer to an AIDS-free generation, we have to join forces and commit to protecting ourselves and each other.
In case you need a reminder, here are some ways to protect yourself.
- Abstinence: This is a commitment to avoid anal, vaginal, and oral sex
- Mutual monogamy: This means you agree to only engaging in sexual activity with one person who has made this same agreement with you.
- Reduce the number of sexual partners: it’s still important to get tested!
- Condoms: Use a condom correctly and every time!
- New, sterile needles: HIV can be transmitted by injecting drugs through needles, syringes and other works if they are contaminated with the blood of someone who is HIV infected. It is vital that individuals who inject drugs use only new, sterile needles, syringes and other works — and never share them.
- Put yourself to the test: Get tested and know your status!
- Spread the word: share your knowledge about HIV/AIDS with others. Always remember you are your sisters and brothers keeper.