“On this National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we have greater opportunity than ever before to reverse the HIV epidemic in Black America and the nation as a whole,” Kevin A. Fenton, Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS at the Centers for Disease Control, said on Monday.
“HIV touches every corner of black communities,” Fenton went on to say in a statement. Below is an excerpt from Fenton’s statement on state of black HIV/AIDS rates in the U.S. and what the CDC is doing about it:
The impact of HIV has been devastating among black youth, with approximately 40 percent of new infections among blacks now occurring among those between the ages of 13 and 29. Young black gay and bisexual men are the most severely affected, experiencing a nearly 50 percent increase in new HIV infections over the past few years. In addition, HIV is now the third leading cause of death among black women in the prime of their lives - those aged 35 to 44 years.
To turn the tide on this epidemic, we must confront the complex social and environmental conditions that help fuel the HIV epidemic in African-American communities. Lack of access to health care plays a role. We know that those who don’t have the means to see a health care provider may not get an HIV test or treatment until it’s too late. We also know that nearly 1 in 5 African-Americans are without health insurance.
In addition, where you live and choose sexual partners also has a significant impact on your HIV risk. Higher rates of HIV in black communities and the fact that African-Americans tend to select partners who are of the same race increases the likelihood of being exposed to HIV infection with each sexual encounter.
We must also tackle factors such as homophobia and stigma - far too prevalent in many communities - that prevent too many in the black community from getting tested, and if HIV positive, from getting treated. And we must speak out about HIV and begin to shed light on these issues that continue to hide in the dark.
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’ve expanded initiatives to reach more African-Americans with HIV testing, increased the number and reach of HIV prevention programs in black communities, and are working with our partners, like those in the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, to launch campaigns aimed at increasing HIV testing and awareness among black women and black gay and bisexual men, among other groups.
Fenton went on to call on the faith community, public health and community leaders, teachers, parents, and business leaders - both within and outside black communities - to “maximize the powerful tools we have at our fingertips and to work together to bring this epidemic to an end. “
An analysis by the Black AIDS Institute found that if black America were its own country, it would rank 16th in the world in the number of people with HIV — ahead of Ethiopia, Botswana, and Haiti.