Friday, Feb. 7 marks the yearly opportunity to increase HIV education, testing, community involvement and treatment among the nation’s Black communities.

Outreach efforts and new initiatives will take center stage here in the District and across the U.S. for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) – an annual observance first held in 1999 as a grassroots education effort targeting Blacks and other communities of color.

The day, planned and led annually by The Strategic Leadership Council, highlights the continuing disproportionate impact of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS] on the African-American population.

During 2018, Blacks represented 13 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for 43 percent of all newly diagnosed HIV infections.

In February 2019, a new national initiative, Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America would be launched, calling for intensified efforts to diagnose, treat, prevent and respond to HIV infections in the U.S. with an overall goal of reducing new HIV infections by 90 percent by 2030.

On Friday, a landmark report will present data about Blacks in the U.S. and the Black community’s ongoing struggle with a disproportionate burden of HIV.

Consider the following information which the report will include:
Black men account for 49 percent of new HIV diagnoses.
New diagnoses increased for Black gay men ages 25-34 by 40 percent from 2010 to 2016 according to the CDC.
Four out of 10 people infected with HIV in this country are Black.
One in 48 Black women will become HIV-positive.

One in 2 transgender women are at risk for HIV.
Since Magic Johnson’s HIV admission, coverage of the impact of HIV in the Black community remains all but nonexistent.
Black Americans are eight times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV as white Americans despite being only 13 percent of the total US population.
HIV must be addressed not merely as a public health issue but as a racial and social justice issue.
Black communities need to mobilize to reform laws and policies that impede the fight against HIV in Black America.
Black communities need to elect leaders who make fighting HIV a priority and support access to health care.
It is recommended that the nation enact laws that recognize the diversity of gender identity, prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and implement gender affirm laws, policies and practices. No state across the South has such laws in place.

Meanwhile, the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) will unveil a groundbreaking and comprehensive campaign and report on Friday, “We the People: A Black Plan to End HIV in America which aims to set the precedence for anti-racist/sexist HIV mobilization in the U.S.

While the phrase We the People continues to inspire efforts to form a more perfect union, the gap between the vision of people-empowered government and the reality of life in the U.S, gaping from the country’s founding, continues to persist today.

In FY 2020, the Trump Administration has allocated an additional $250 million to end the HIV epidemic within the U.S. in 10 years. The initiative reportedly seeks to provide the “hardest hit communities” with tools, technology, and resources to combat HIV.

But many medical experts and HIV/AIDS prevention advocates insist that a plan to end the HIV epidemic without specific attention being paid to structural oppression which marginalizes at-risk communities will always fail.

“Black communities have been disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic since the start due in part to the lack of engagement and transparency with Black communities around health policy, funding, and long-range planning to address barriers to health care. The communities most impacted by HIV must take the lead in articulating their needs and priorities in order for health and social services to be effective” said Raniyah Copeland, BAI president and CEO.

The plan outlines four major recommendations to effectively center the most marginalized communities and end the HIV epidemic: 1) Dismantle anti-Black practices, systems, and institutions that endanger the health and well-being of Black people and undermine an effective, equitable response to HIV in Black America; 2) Invest in Black communities through resources and services that address the fullness, richness, potential, and expertise of Black people and mitigate social and structural factors that worsen health outcomes in Black communities; 3) Ensure universal access to and robust utilization of high-quality, comprehensive, affordable and culturally- and gender-affirming health care to enable Black people to live healthy lives in our full dignity; and 4) Build the capacity and motivation of Black communities to be the change agents for ending HIV.

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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