• 1 in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV in his lifetime, as will 1 in 32 black women.
  • Nearly a quarter of a million African Americans with AIDS have died since the beginning of the epidemic.
  • Among blacks, gay and bisexual men are the most affected, followed by heterosexual women.
  • While research shows African Americans do not take greater sexual risks, a range of factors, such as poverty, limited access to health care and higher HIV and STD prevalence place African Americans at a greater risk for infection.
  • Recent scientific breakthroughs, coupled with stability and declines in the number of new infections among African Americans provide new hope that we can end this epidemic.
  • In a study of 21 major U.S. cities in 2008, 28 percent of black MSM were infected – nearly twice the percentage of white MSM. Among the black MSM who were HIV-infected, more than half (59 percent) were unaware that they were infected.
  • It should also be noted that the CDC, according to its most recent 2008 data, ranks Atlanta as the eighth highest metropolitan city with its number of HIV infections.

Georgia Equality, the state’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, also put out some shocking numbers today:

Did you know that in Georgia:

• 70 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia are black

• 78 percent of new HIV infections were among black communities
 
• 61 percent of people on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program are black

“Nearly 900 people living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia are on a waiting list for life-saving medications. Many of these people have been on the waiting list for six months or more.  Without new funding, that waiting list is expected to grow by 1,300 people by the summer,” Georgia Equality reports.

“Right now Georgia lawmakers are working on both the amended 2011 budget and the budget for 2012. Please send an email to your Representative asking them to support additional funding for ADAP,” adds Georgia Equality.

Dr. Keith Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention for the the CDC, released this statement for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day:

“On this National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day we are reminded of the devastating toll HIV continues to take among African-Americans, affecting nearly every corner of black communities. Today, as we reflect on the lives touched by and lost to this disease, let us also renew our resolve to do whatever it takes to end this epidemic.

“Of all races, African-Americans have the highest rates of HIV infection in the nation. Blacks make up just 14 percent of the U.S. population, yet account for almost half of those living and dying with HIV and AIDS in this country.

“Within the black community, the face of HIV is young and old, male and female, straight and gay. It is black women in their 30s and 40s for whom AIDS is now the third leading cause of death. It is the black youth of our country, many of whom will become infected before their 30th birthday.  It is black gay and bisexual men, who continue to be especially hard hit by HIV, accounting for more than 40 percent of new infections among African-Americans overall.

“To reduce this toll, we must come together to confront the complex environmental factors that fuel the epidemic in African-American communities:

The high prevalence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in black communities, coupled with most African-Americans selecting partners who are also African-American, means they face a greater risk of HIV infection with each sexual encounter than people of other races/ethnicities.

We know that if you don’t have the means to see a doctor, you may not get an HIV test or treatment until it’s too late.  According to the most recent national Census data, about 1 in 5 blacks are without health insurance.

We know that those who cannot afford the basics in life may end up in circumstances that increase their HIV risk.  We also know that nearly a quarter of African-American families live in poverty and that the current economic crisis has led to record-high levels of unemployment among African-Americans.

Higher rates of incarceration among African-American men decrease the number of available partners for females and may impact sexual risk behavior. This can, in turn, fuel the spread of HIV.

Stigma and homophobia, far too prevalent in every community, continue to keep many African-Americans from seeking HIV testing, prevention and treatment.

“While these realities paint a dire picture, there is another image that has been unfolding one of hope.

“This past year has ushered in a season of new hope in the fight against HIV. We’ve seen new HIV prevention breakthroughs, like evidence that taking a daily pill can reduce risk of infection for gay and bisexual men, and applying a vaginal gel before and after sex can reduce risk of infection for women. In July, 2010, President Obama launched the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which provides a first-ever blueprint for fighting the U.S. epidemic, with a particular focus on populations hardest hit, including African-Americans.

“The number of new infections among African-Americans is stable and has been for more than a decade despite the growing number of people living with HIV who can potentially transmit the disease. We’ve also seen dramatic declines in new infections in several categories where African-Americans are disproportionately represented, such as mother-to-child transmission and injection drug use. All of these developments show us that prevention works.

“And black communities are more mobilized than ever against HIV.  This weekend, African-American leaders from every walk of life business, civil rights, entertainment, government and media are speaking out and taking action at events across the nation, from health fairs and workshops to candlelight vigils and HIV testing events.

“At CDC, HIV prevention in black communities remains one of our top priorities. Last year, we invested more than half of our HIV prevention budget to fight HIV among African-Americans. We recently expanded a multi-million dollar testing initiative to reach more African-Americans with HIV testing.  We are increasing the number and reach of HIV prevention programs for African-Americans and are working across federal agencies to tackle the complex social factors driving the black HIV epidemic.  In cities hardest-hit by HIV across the nation, we are also working to scale up HIV prevention services to significantly decrease new HIV infections.  And through CDC’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, we are harnessing the collective strength and reach of longstanding black community institutions to increase HIV-related awareness, knowledge, and action across the nation.

“Each of us, too, has a part to play in this fight. The fact remains that HIV infection is completely preventable. We each have a personal responsibility to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  Get the facts about HIV. Get tested. Speak out against homophobia and stigma. Everyone and every action counts. Visit www.actagainstaids.org to find out more.”

Turning the tide on HIV in black communities will take hard work.  But with new tools, new hope and renewed commitment, we can change the course of this epidemic.

Top photo: Dr. Keith Fenton (courtesy CDC)

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