National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, observed every year on February 7, is the perfect opportunity to shine a spotlight on the racial disparities in HIV infection that persist in the U.S.
In 2017, as in years past, HIV disproportionately affects African Americans.
According to most recent statistics from the Florida Department of Health, African Americans account for 15 percent of the state’s population, but account for 44 percent of adult HIV infection cases and 47 percent of adult AIDS cases reported in 2014.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control shows that in 2014, one in five African Americans had progressed to AIDS by the time their infection was diagnosed. The same analysis also shows that once diagnosed, less than half of African Americans with HIV have achieved viral suppression through care and treatment -- that is, the virus is under control and at a level that dramatically reduces the risk of transmission.
The goal of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) is to promote HIV education, testing, treatment and community involvement in black communities. NBHAAD was founded in 1999 as a national response to the growing HIV and AIDS epidemic in African American communities. This year’s theme is “I am my Brother/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS.”
“As a Black Gay Man, I know that this is an issue that we aren’t speaking on in our churches, homes, and with our friends,” said Lorenzo Lowe, HIV Prevention Director of Compass. “We remain silent and refuse to ask questions regarding safer sex. In many cases we can’t even speak about being part of the LGBT community while attending church.”
One South Florida church plans to break the silence. In recognition of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), will partner with Mount Olive Development Corporation in Fort Lauderdale to present the Keep The Promise (KTP) Concert & March to create greater awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS in Broward and Miami-Dade counties and encourage the community to answer the “call to action” in addressing the rising HIV/AIDS epidemic. It’s one of many NBHAAD events planned for South Florida.
The Keep the Promise Concert & March will kick off Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. with a short march from New Hope Baptist Church, located at 1321 NW Sixth St., to The New Mt. Olive Baptist Church, 400 NW Ninth Ave.
The march will be followed by a moderated community conversation on how stigma and judgment encourage the spread of HIV/AIDS and the role of the faith community in fighting the epidemic. Award-winning gospel artists Yolanda Adams and Erica Campbell of gospel duo Mary Mary will perform live following the discussion. The Keep the Promise Concert & March is free and open to the public, but registration is required at USAkeepthepromise.org.
“It’s time to take responsibility- to do better and to be better,” Lowe said. “We need to share information within our communities and support one another in this fight. I hope as a community we can get to a point where we begin to mobilize and say I am my Brothers/Sisters Keeper.”
Related: Local Black LGBT Activists
Everyone should know his/her HIV status. The CDC recommends HIV testing as part of routine health care. Ask to be tested. Rapid tests can provide results in as little as 20 minutes. Free or low cost testing is available. Visit GetTested.cdc.gov to find an HIV testing location near you.