Each year on February 7, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)’s HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB) joins the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to honor National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This important observance is an opportunity to raise awareness about HIV education and testing services among the Black community, and highlight the work to improve the quality of HIV treatment and care in Black communities across the U.S.
For more than three decades, HRSA's Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) has funded grants to cities, counties, states, and local community-based organizations and clinics to provide a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care, essential support services, and medications for low-income people with HIV. In 2020, nearly 562,000 individuals received care through the RWHAP. Nearly three quarters of these individuals were from racial/ethnic minority populations with more than 46% identifying as Black/African American.
Over the past 10 years, the RWHAP has made important progress in reducing health disparities among people with HIV. In 2020, a record-high 86.7% of Black/African American clients receiving care through the RWHAP were virally suppressed. This means they have an undetectable viral load and effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.
While this is great news, we understand there is still work to be done to close the gaps in HIV prevention and in care and treatment. We continue to provide funding for populations within the Black community most affected by the HIV epidemic, including young Black men who have sex with men (MSM) and Black women.
For example, we currently fund RWHAP Special Projects of National Significance initiatives to design, develop, and implement interventions that help improve health outcomes for Black men and women with HIV. One initiative focused on Black women includes interventions that enhance patient navigation, case management, and peer engagement, as well as interventions that address trauma-informed care; self-efficacy, health literacy, and resiliency; stigma reduction; barriers to HIV care; and intimate partner violence, sexual violence or other behavioral needs.
Another initiative focuses on developing behavioral health models to retain black MSM in HIV medical care and support services. The models integrate behavioral health services, including substance use disorder treatment, with HIV care to specifically address the needs of black MSM with HIV. The models also use social marketing campaigns, case management programs, peer support, and motivational interviewing.
The findings from these projects support the development of innovative models of HIV care and treatment that can help address the needs of RWHAP’s Black/African American clients.
We also fund initiatives to reduce HIV-related stigma (ESCALATE), build capacity of persons with HIV so they can be meaningfully involved in RWHAP services (ELEVATE), and train people of color with HIV so they can engage in leadership roles and activities related to HIV service delivery (Building Leaders of Color Living with HIV).
HRSA HAB recognizes the key role health care providers have in caring for people with HIV. Our RWHAP AIDS Education and Training Center Program offers tailored trainings to increase capacity for minority providers and providers who treat minority patients. Through our In It Together Health Literacy Project, we developed trainings specifically for health professionals serving Black/African American gay, bisexual, and other MSM.
In honor of Black History Month and National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we encourage you to learn more about the RWHAP and the resources available to improve HIV outcomes for the Black community. Follow HRSA on Facebook and Twitter and join the conversations using #HRSAHonorsNBHAAD.