Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and the theme is “I Am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper. Fight HIV/AIDS!”
This theme speaks to me about how we can be available to our fellow brothers and sisters to talk freely and with confidence about HIV/AIDS. Use this day to take a moment and recognize that people from every community are living well with HIV/AIDS and a significant portion of our population knows their status. We cannot let shame and stigma keep us from getting tested and finding care to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Knowledge is still power! Modern advances in science and technology mean that more people have access to more information about the disease now than in the history of the epidemic. We know exactly how HIV/AIDS can and cannot be transmitted. We know that a person that is adherent to their virally suppressive medicines, which are more powerful and less toxic than ever, puts their chances of infecting another individual at zero. Adding preventative measures such as PrEP and safer sex practices, we now have the means to end new infections.
Despite dramatic advances in combatting HIV/AIDS, it is no secret that there is a disproportionate amount of new infections within Black communities and communities of color. Overall, CDC estimates that African Americans represent more than one-third (40-percent or 498,400 persons) of all people living with HIV and almost half (45-percent in 2015) of all persons with newly diagnosed infection.
Be your brother’s and sister’s keeper. Have an honest discussion today. Use today’s theme as a catalyst to ask some potentially hard questions. Are you at risk? Have you been tested? Do you know your status? Do not be afraid. Take a trusted friend and go get tested together. Again, knowledge is still power. Having these discussions within our communities and acting on information saves and enriches lives.
Start by visiting PositiveSpin, a wonderfully interactive website that tells stories of men of color along the continuum of care, finds testing sites in your area, plainly answers common questions around getting tested, and directs you to healthcare. You can also visit AIDS.gov to get the latest in the national HIV/AIDS strategy.
The National AIDS Memorial Grove is a dedicated space in the national landscape where millions of Americans touched directly or indirectly by AIDS can gather to heal, hope, and remember. Its mission is to provide, in perpetuity, a place of remembrance so that the lives of people who died from AIDS are not forgotten and the story is known by future generations. Tell your story. Get tested. Get treated. Live a healthy life, and help the brothers and sisters in our communities do the same.
Member, National AIDS Memorial Board of Directors