For African Americans, HIV awareness is not about one day; it is about putting our health first and our willingness to address hard issues and have tough conversations. It’s about replacing walls of stigma, misinformation, and fear with the facts, along with love and support that create safe spaces for people to learn, be tested for HIV, seek care, and stay in treatment. Stopping HIV starts at both the personal and community level; we must work together to make it happen.
Studies show that cultural biases like stigma, discrimination, and homophobia place many African Americans at higher risk for HIV. These barriers prevent many from seeking routine HIV testing or receiving HIV preventative care and treatments due to fear of judgment from family and peers. In fact, the CDC reports 1 in 7 African Americans living with HIV are unaware of their diagnosis. Without knowing they have HIV, they cannot take advantage of the treatments that can lead to viral suppression and prevent them from unknowingly transmitting the virus to others.
Data also show that African Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV. Although they represent only 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 43% of all new HIV diagnoses.
- Among all women diagnosed with HIV in the U.S., African American women account for 59% of new HIV diagnoses.
- African American gay and bisexual men represent 37% of all new HIV cases.
- New HIV cases are steadily rising specifically amongst African American millennials ages 24-35.
Having conversations about sexual health and HIV prevention methods is critical to reducing the number of new transmissions. This type of open, transparent dialogue about ways to prevent HIV can empower the community to take actions based on accurate information regarding personal health.
While condoms are still the best way to protect against sexually transmitted infections and diseases, they are not the only way to prevent HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications are a safe and effective way to stop HIV from taking hold in the body. There are now patient assistance programs such as Ready, Set, PrEP that provide PrEP medications at no cost for those who test negative for HIV, have a valid prescription, but don’t have prescription drug insurance.
Learn more about National Black HIV Awareness Day and reducing HIV stigma and to enroll in Ready, Set, PrEP, visit www.GetYourPrEP.com. To find a test center or healthcare provider near you, visit locator.hiv.gov.