Feb 7, 2011

 
 
DO YOU KNOW YOUR STATUS?
 
 

By race/ethnicity, African Americans face the  most severe burden of HIV in the United States (US). At the end of 2007, Blacks accounted for almost half (46%) of people living with a diagnosis of HIV infection in the 37 states and 5 US dependent areas with long-term, confidential, name-based HIV reporting. In 2006, Blacks accounted for nearly half (45%) of new infections in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Even though new HIV infections among Blacks overall have been roughly stable since the early 1990s, compared with members of other races and ethnicities Blacks continue to account for a higher proportion of cases at all stages of HIV—from new infections to deaths.

According to the CDC, in 2008, an estimated 18,328 Blacks received an AIDS diagnosis, a number that has remained relatively stable since 2005. By the end of 2007, an estimated 233,624 Blacks with a diagnosis of AIDS had died in the US and 5 dependent areas. In 2006, HIV was the ninth leading cause of death for all Blacks and the third leading cause of death for both Black men and Black women aged 35–44.

Below represents a number of the many challenges when it comes to preventing HIV in Black communities, none of which are insurmountable when we have a dedicated village of Black men, women and transgender individuals committed to saving every Black life at rik.:

  • Sexual risk factors include high-risk sexual contact such as unprotected sex with multiple partners or unprotected sex with persons known to have or be at a high risk for HIV infection. People may be unaware of their partner's sexual risk factors or have incorrectly assessed them.
  • Injection drug use may add to the higher rates of infection for Blacks. In addition to being at risk from sharing unclean needles, causal and chronic illegal substance users may be more likely to engage in unprotected sex under the influence of illegal drugs and/or alcohol .
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) continue to be experienced at higher rates within Black communities, more so than any other race/ethnicity in the United States. The presence of certain STDs can significantly increase one's chances of contracting HIV infection. A person who has both HIV infection and certain STDs has a greater chance of spreading HIV infection to others.
  • Lack of awareness of HIV status is risky for Black men and women. In a recent study of men who have sex with men (MSM) in five cities, 46% of the Black MSM were HIV-positive and 67% of those men were unaware of their infection.
  • Stigma, a "negative social label that identifies people as deviant", also puts too many Blacks at a high risk of infection. Any behavior deemed deviant (i.e. MSM) has been highly stigmatized. Many at risk for HIV infection fear stigma more than knowing their status, choosing instead to hide their high-risk behavior rather than seek counseling and testing. Therefore continuing to be at risk of contracting and passing it on to infect others.
  • The socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, including limited access to high quality healthcare, housing and HIV prevention education may directly or indirectly increase the risk factors for HIV infection for Black people.

Given the aforementioned challenges, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day becomes crucial in working to stem the tide of HIV and get those who test positive linked to care and treatment services.

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