Events Recognize National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
Wednesday marks the seventh annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which aims to encourage blacks to get tested for HIV, to become educated about the virus and to receive treatment if necessary, the Chicago Tribune reports (Glanton, Chicago Tribune, 2/7). According to CDC data from 33 states published in November 2005 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the rate of new HIV cases among blacks has decreased an average of 5% annually since 2001, declining from 88.7 cases per 100,000 people in 2001 to 76.3 cases per 100,000 in 2004. However, blacks in 2004 were 8.4 times more likely than whites to be newly diagnosed with HIV. Blacks -- who make up about 12.3% of the U.S. population -- in 2004 accounted for about 49% of the estimated number of reported AIDS cases nationwide. In addition, HIV/AIDS in 2002 was the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34; was among the top three causes of death for black men ages 25 to 54; and was among the top four causes of death for black women ages 25 to 54 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/7/06). National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is sponsored by the Community Capacity Building Coalition, a consortium of national minority-focused groups supported by CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/2). Events are occurring nationwide and announcements have been made in recognition of the awareness day. Highlights appear below.
- Baltimore: The Institute of Human Virology will hold an open house to encourage HIV-positive people to adhere to their treatment regimens. Several clergy members and elected officials plan to receive HIV tests during the open house (Hille, Washington Examiner, 2/7).
- Delaware: The Delaware Health and Social Services Department and Beautiful Gate Outreach Center will sponsor its 6th Annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Free Dinner Conference. The dinner will include comments from Carol Henderson Belton, an associate professor of English and black American studies at the University of Delaware, and Abbott Laboratories HIV specialist Robert Adams. In addition, speakers from local community AIDS groups will address dinner attendees (DHSS release, 2/6).
- Kentucky: This year's observance in Kentucky will be themed "26 Years of AIDS is Enough, the Time to Deliver is Now." The observance will feature distribution of educational material to local community events and churches, a town hall meeting, performances and workshops all focused on HIV/AIDS (Kentucky Department of Public Health release, 2/5).
- Memphis, Tenn.: The Memphis and Shelby County Health Department and local black leaders and organizations will sponsor events through Feb. 11., including discussion forums, HIV counseling and testing, and a news conference (Wilson, Eyewitness News, 2/5).
- Mississippi: HIV/AIDS advocate Marvelyn Brown on Tuesday addressed students at Jackson State University as part of the school's commemoration of the awareness day (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 2/6).
- Hampton, Va.: The Hampton University Student Government Association is hosting a seminar featuring HIV/AIDS-related fiction, music and poetry. Other colleges in the area are planning candlelight vigils and information sessions, and local churches have organized educational programs for ministers and the general public (Freehling, Hampton Roads Daily Press, 2/5).
- New York City: Victor Mooney, New York HIV/AIDS advocate and founder of South African Arts International, on Wednesday will unveil the design of an ocean rowboat that he will use to row across the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and Africa, the AP/Long Island Newsday. Mooney will begin his trip on Dec. 1., which marks World AIDS Day 2007. Mooney in May 2006 attempted a similar trip that was unsuccessful (AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/7).
- Orange County, Fla.: The Orange County Health Department, the National Black Alcoholism and Addictions Council and other community partners are sponsoring several events, including a panel discussion, health fair, special screenings and the unveiling of a bus that displays HIV prevention messages (Rassel, Orlando Sentinel, 2/4).
- Tallahassee, Fla.: Sen. Frederica Wilson (D) and Rep. Curtis Richardson (D) will receive HIV tests at the state capitol on Wednesday to commemorate the awareness day and encourage residents to receive tests (Cotterell, Pensacola News Journal, 2/7).
AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts: AAC Executive Director Rebecca Haag said, "We must make sure that people living with HIV receive quality care and treatment, but at the same time, we must decrease the number of new" HIV cases through increased access to HIV prevention programs, particularly for minority communities (AAC release, 2/6).
National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors: NASTAD on Wednesday announced it has released an issue brief examining HIV prevention efforts targeting black men who have sex with men (NASTAD release, 2/7).
National Medical Association: NMA President Albert Morris in a statement said, "Special events such as free HIV/AIDS testing, town hall meetings, candlelight vigils and faith-based programs are being held throughout the country. However, we must do more to stop the spread of this disease." He added that NMA "strongly recommends that physicians and other health care professionals offer routine HIV testing to their patients" (NMA release, 2/7).
National Minority AIDS Council: The council on Monday announced the formation of the National Minority Policy Partnership on HIV/AIDS, an advocacy group that will lobby at local, state and federal levels to reduce HIV/AIDS among minority communities; ensure funding of HIV/AIDS prevention, diagnosis and treatment programs; reduce discrimination against black MSM; decrease the number of new HIV cases in prisons and the number of cases that occur through injection drug use; and stabilize communities at risk of HIV/AIDS (National Minority AIDS Council release, 2/5).
NIH: In a statement to commemorate the awareness day, Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, "Some of the biggest challenges we face today are the misperceptions of and lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS, and fear related to clinical research, particularly among African-Americans." He added that he encourages blacks to "take part in the research effort in whatever way possible, as scientists, clinicians, community educators, advocates and study volunteers" (NIH release, 2/5).
Several newspapers published opinion pieces responding to the awareness day. Summaries appear below.
- Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: U.S. blacks "need to stay reminded that HIV/AIDS is a scourge that shows no signs of going anywhere," columnist Armstrong writes in a Daily News opinion piece, adding that blacks are "getting walloped especially hard" by the epidemic. According to Armstrong, it is "mind-boggling" that black people are more likely to become HIV-positive than whites (Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News, 2/7).
- Jarvis DeBerry, New Orleans Times-Picayune: "To divide and conquer is classic military strategy, and if AIDS were a military strategist, he'd have the black community licked," columnist DeBerry writes in a Times-Picayune opinion piece. According to DeBerry, too many people have tried to fight the spread of HIV "by looking for bogeymen within the community when, for their health's sake, they ought to assume that everybody is a potential carrier of the disease and protect themselves accordingly." DeBerry writes that because HIV/AIDS is widespread in the black "family," people can "do one of two things about it. We can admit its presence and commit ourselves to fighting it together. Or we can bicker among ourselves and blame one another until there isn't any family left" (DeBerry, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 2/6).
- Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "The spread of AIDS and HIV is the biggest public health emergency ever faced by blacks in this country," columnist Norman writes in a Post-Gazette opinion piece. "Why, after more than two decades ... are AIDS and HIV still taboo subjects in communities that can least afford to ignore them?" Norman asks, adding that "pretending" that HIV only affects other people "is a tragic fantasy" (Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/6).
- Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald: The "main reason" that HIV/AIDS is so prevalent among blacks in the U.S. "is the silence, the closed-mouth social conservatism" and the "priggish moral rectitude of a people still ill at ease discussing sexuality, homosexuality, drug use and other realities," columnist Pitts writes in a Herald opinion piece. He adds that the black community needs to "pull its collective head out of the sand" and "quit pretending homosexuality does not exist" and that injection drug use "does not exist" (Pitts, Miami Herald, 2/5).