Now in its 20th year, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) is an opportunity to increase HIV education, testing, community involvement, and treatment among black communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 44 percent of new HIV diagnoses.
The statistics are about the same in Florida, where blacks make up only 15 percent of the state’s population, yet comprise more than 42 percent of Florida’s HIV cases diagnosed in 2016. One in 47 black adults has HIV compared to one in 181 Hispanics and one in 284 white individuals. While blacks are still disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS, Florida is making strides. Florida has seen an overall 42 percent decrease in HIV case rates among blacks since 2005, moving the cause of death from HIV among blacks ages 25-44 from 1st to 5th statewide in 2016.
But there is still much work to do.
This year’s NBHAAD theme, “Together for Love: Stop HIV Stigma,” focuses on the messages of the Act Against AIDS, Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. Let’s Stop HIV Together raises awareness that we all have a role to play in stopping HIV stigma.
“As an African American, I learned as a child the importance of community—our community,” saidLorenzo Lowe, HIV Prevention Director at Compass. “The culture and stories of our elders continue to be an unlimited resource interwoven with our souls. We carry each other through everything! We cannot allow HIV/AIDS to be excluded from the list of challenges we face as a community. Unfortunately, at some point, the disease became a secret and those three letters went from being whispered to not being spoken at all. That is why National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is so important for African Americans. This day reminds us to move forward without hesitation in the fight. It encourages us to take charge of who we are and how we want to live,” he said.
With early HIV diagnosis, individuals can begin appropriate treatment and care resulting in better health outcomes. Studies show that providing antiretroviral therapy as early as possible after diagnosis improves a patient’s health and can lead to undetectable viral loads of HIV, which can ultimately reduce transmission.
This week, organizations, clinics, and communities across South Florida will commemorate 20 years of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day promotion and engagement. You can find an event near you by visiting, https://gettested.cdc.gov/search_results.
In Miami, on Thursday, Feb. 7, free HIV testing is available as part of “Take the Train, Take the Test!” Tests take place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the following locations:
- Government Center Metrorail Station: 111 NW 1st Street, Miami, FL 33128
- Culmer Metrorail Station: 701 NW 11thStreet, Miami, FL 33136
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Metrorail Station: 6205 NW 27thAvenue, Miami, FL 33147
On Wednesday, Feb. 6, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Compass in Lake Worth hosts a Community Education Series. The event includes a discussion aimed at deconstructing the system that keeps black communities disproportionately affected by HIV. It also looks at what can be done to shift the dynamic going forward. Dinner will be served. Registration is required, but the event is free.
Compass is located at 201 North Dixie Highway, Lake Worth 33460.
“Compass’ Community Education Series event for NBHAAD will provide an opportunity speak about where the African American community is regarding our responsibility in this fight,” Lowe said. “We hope to create an open space to voice what we need from each other and our agencies. It’s one of the many reasons we are proud to have Christopher Bates as moderator for this essential event. This event will not just focus on challenges but also the successes within our community. It is the many challenges that we have overcome that make our progression as people historic and this shall be no different.”