National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). The hope is that members of the African American community will commemorate this day annually by getting tested for HIV. AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 42% since their peak in 2004 and today with early intervention and proper medical care, HIV can be controlled allowing people to live longer, and healthier lives. Progress is being made but there is still no cure for HIV and the numbers of those affected are staggering; according to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 34 million people world-wide have died from AIDS-related causes so far, including 1.2 million in 2014. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 1.2 million people in the United States are currently living with HIV, and almost 1 in 8 (12.8%) are unaware of their infection status.
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the African American community is alarming. Although African Americans represent only 12% of the U.S. population, they account for 47% of HIV diagnoses. The rate of new HIV infections in African Americans is 8 times that of White Americans. According to Department of Health surveillance data reported by the Boston Public Health Commission, there were 190 new HIV cases in Boston in 2013. While blacks and Latinos make up 47% of the Boston population, they account for 66% of the new cases reported. In addition, the majority of diagnosed MSM between ages 13 and 29 were young Boston men of color. The good news is that people diagnosed with HIV can benefit from clinical care and HIV treatment that has been proven to reduce morbidity and mortality. HIV screening also allows people to take advantage of prevention services that lower their risk of transmitting the disease. (See, http://www.cdc.gov). Maintaining undetectable viral load through treatment adherence can lower the chances of transmitting the virus and Whittier provides excellent treatment and adherence care at its facility.
Observation of NBHAAD
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was first observed in 1999. This year’s theme is “I Am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper. Fight HIV/AIDS.” For more information on observing NBHAAD in 2016 go to http://www.NationalBlackAIDsDay.org The Strategic Leadership Council works to educate, bring awareness, and mobilize the African American community to take a stand against HIV/AIDS through National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day encouraging people to get educated, get involved, get tested and get treated.
Availability of Testing
Knowledge is power! The only way to know if you are infected with HIV is to be tested. The time to act is now. During clinic hours anyone, whether or not they are currently a Whittier client, can come to Whittier for a free confidential rapid 20 minute HIV test delivered by a peer counselor or community health worker. Community outreach workers from Whittier also conduct testing at a variety of venues including a mobile medical van, at homeless shelters, and drop-in centers. Counseling is an important part of all testing and those who test positive are immediately linked to treatment and to a medical case manager at Whittier. For more information and for free confidential HIV test call (617) 308-0060.