The commemoration of World AIDS Day on Wednesday is a reminder of the ongoing struggle and fight that many people and families go through with this deadly disease, one that has been an epidemic for decades and is especially prominent in the Black community.
The World Health Organization established World AIDS Day in 1988 to provide national AIDS programs, faith organizations, community organizations, and individuals with an opportunity to raise awareness and focus attention on the global AIDS epidemic.
According to Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a new infection occurs every 9.5 minutes, totaling 56,000 new infections each year.
HIV and AIDS have hit African Americans the hardest, shattering families and destroying lives. The CDC cites the reasons for the racial disparity as not just related to race, but rather to barriers faced by many African Americans. These barriers include poverty, access to healthcare and the social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Even though Black Americans account for about 13% of the US population, they are almost half (49%) of the people living with HIV and AIDS.
African Americans represent 51% of the 42,655 (including children) new HIV/AIDS diagnoses and 48 percent of the 551,932 persons, including children, living with HIV.
AIDS is the leading cause of death among Black women ages 25-34 and the second leading cause of death in Black men ages 35-44 years. One in 30 Black women and 1 in 16 Black men will be infected with HIV in their lifetime.
Many community groups and organizations around the country and world are going together to observe World AIDS Day, standing united in the global fight against this devastating disease.
NAACP chapters and branches across the country, including California, New York, Michigan, Colorado, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Texas will use World AIDS Day 2010 as a day to highlight the AIDS issue in their communities and will host a number of community events including community wide forums, education sessions and free screenings.
In addition, the NAACP is working to mobilize pastors in states with the highest concentration of HIV-infected African Americans to have open discussions about the HIV epidemic and direct parishioners to services in their communities.
“We must not forget the devastating effects HIV/AIDS has on communities of color across this country,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “The NAACP is committed to being a major force behind the education of communities, and a strong advocate for better health services and HIV/AIDS testing. Knowledge is the first step to better health and access to services is critical if we are to overcome this crisis.”
On a local level several organizations are hosting World AIDS Day events and offering free HIV testing, including the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, the Black Health Coalition and the Neu-Life Community Development Center in conjunction with Positive People HIV/AIDS Ministries.
Additionally, downtown Milwaukee will have a touch of (RED) to raise awareness. The Marcus Center in was illuminated in red lights to support the fight to eliminate AIDS. The (RED) Campaign is one of the most well-known and recognized campaigns against AIDS.
(RED) works with the world’s most iconic brands – among them Apple, Gap and Starbucks – to make unique (RED) products, giving up to 50% of their profits to the Global Fund to invest in HIV and AIDS programs in Africa.
While many organizations are recognizing HIV/AIDS awareness on this day, they all feel that awareness and education is needed on a daily basis.
In fact, both the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) and the Black Health Coalition (BHC) offer free HIV testing on a regular basis.
The ARCW offer testing appointments at their downtown office, located at 820 N, Plankinton Ave., Monday through Thursday. Interested persons should call 414-225-1608 to schedule an appointment.
Additionally, the Black Health Coalition offers free testing at their office, located at 3020 W. Vliet St. as well three outreach sites located in churches throughout the Northside. Testing is free, takes place Monday through Thursday and interested persons should call the BHC at 414 -933-0064 to schedule an appointment.
Today is marked as a day of HIV and AIDS awareness. People around the city, country and world are being encouraged to get tested and to know his or her status.
Prevention is key. And as the World AIDS Day slogan reminds us, we need to “Think.”
“Think: before you start; before you shoot; before you share.”