The National Black HIV/AIDs Awareness Day is observed on the 9th of February since 1999. It is held to increase awareness on HIV education, testing, prevention, and treatment. The disproportionately high ratio of African American testing positive of HIV/AIDs is why the day is observed. Just to put it in perspective, 42% of all new HIV diagnoses in 2018 were among African Americans, a very higher number as they account for only 13% of the total population. 57% of all new HIV diagnoses in women in 2018 were African Americans.
This disparity of numbers affecting one segment of population needs to be countered and effective strategies need to be implemented to reduce the percentage of HIV/AIDs cases in the African American population. It is crucial to reduce the stigma attached to HIV/AIDs, because today the disease is not only treatable – it is also preventable.
In 2018, 37,968 people received an HIV diagnosis in the United States (US) and dependent areas. From 2014 to 2018, HIV diagnoses decreased 7% among adults and adolescents. However, annual diagnoses have increased among some groups. People Who Inject Drugs (PWID) for 7% of the 37,968 new HIV diagnoses, with men who inject for 4% of new cases and women accounted for 3% of new HIV diagnosis. It was alarming to note that 25–34-year-olds accounted for the largest percentage (40%) of HIV infections in 2018. Gay and bisexual men are the population affected the most by HIV infections. Infection that could have been prevented with simple measures.
HIV prevalence was highest in the states of California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, and Virginia. Five states accounted for 50% of persons living with HIV infection: California, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Texas.
Medicine has made new breakthroughs whereby even at-risk population can protect themselves from getting HIV. PrEP is a highly effective prevention method if you do not have HIV. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a treatment which can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout the body. Your healthcare provider can prescribe PrEP, if he & she finds it a good option for you. PrEP is much less effective when it is not taken as prescribed. However, if taken as prescribed it can be very effective in preventing HIV from sex and needle use, it is pertinent to note that PrEP is for prevention of HIV not other STDS.
The stigma attached to HIV/AIDs is also one of the reasons potential HIV carriers do not reach out for testing or consultation. Today, many healthcare providers are offering telehealth appointment to patients in the privacy of their homes. Similarly, the availability of self-testing kits at pharmacies can determine your HIV status and let you make informed decisions regarding your health.
It is imperative to create awareness on how HIV can spread and the measures that need to be taken to avoid the risk of HIV. The most common methods of transmission in the United States is having unsafe sex or sharing drug needles with someone who has HIV. The less common ways are mother to child transmission as the use of HIV medicines have significantly lowered the risk in the country. Getting stuck with an HIV needle is also a risk for healthcare workers but it is extremely low.
The society can also play a particularly important role in reducing the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDs, we need to encourage people in our community to offer support for those who are suffering. To not stigmatize them and make them feel like a pariah, allow them to be an active part of the community and create a safe space for their emotional wellbeing. This will not only help in breaking barriers created by the stigma but also help potential at risk population to be aware of the preventive methods available.
Today as we mark the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day across the country, it is time to take a step back and work towards changing the risk factors that affect the black community which has resulted in the rise of numbers that are higher than any other race in the country. It is time to address the racial inequality, the cycle of poverty, and circumstances that have caused so much pain to our communities.