As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, today, –we turn our focus to National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (#NBHAAD). Today we commemorate and recognize the progress we’ve made in HIV prevention, treatment, and care over the last 40 years.
Although we’ve learned so much and made significant strides towards ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there is still more work to be done, especially in Black communities.
While Black community leaders, activists and organizers have worked alongside our allies to reduce HIV and AIDS in our communities and mitigate the seroconversions (new HIV diagnoses), Black Americans still remain disproportionately impacted by HIV.
The first NBHAAD was in 1999 and began as a grassroots-education effort to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS prevention, care, and treatment in communities of color. Annual observances of NBHAAD continue to raise awareness and provide opportunities to combat stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS. NBHAAD allows us to continue to provide relevant resources to Black communities and the general public including:
- Harm Reduction Practices
- Treatment Options
- Community Engagement
“When we think about the health literacy gaps that exists for people that are living with HIV and the people that are not, relatable education remains key to the information we disseminate and how our communities receive that information,” said DaShawn Usher, Associate Director, Communities of Color, at GLAAD.
“NBHAAD remains a day where we galvanize our efforts to improve how we discuss HIV, reduce HIV stigma, and look to the future of HIV research in Black communities. Two HIV prevention efforts everyone should know about are PrEP and U=U.”
HIV/AIDS In Black Communities & HBCUs
There are at least 1.2 million people in the U.S. living with HIV. Out of those 1.2 million people, about 475,000 of them are Black. Despite making up only 12% of the population, Black Americans account for around 43% of all people living with HIV in the United States.
This disproportionate number of Black Americans living with HIV can be attributed to inadequate access to education, testing, prevention, healthcare, racism, discrimination, socioeconomic status, and a number of other risk factors and structural obstacles.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection rates are higher in the American South than any other region in the country, according to government data. The region is also home to the nation’s largest black population, which bears a significant proportion of these HIV cases. In 2014, for example, 54 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the South were found in black people, who in 2010 made up 20.2 percent of the region’s population.
In the campaign to prevent the spread of HIV, public health initiatives have often focused on education. Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) — most of which arose after the Civil War to provide opportunities for higher learning to black students — are an integral aspect of the educational landscape in the South.
A new study considers the positioning of these schools to help mobilize HIV-related public health efforts. The study indicates that HBCUs are located mostly in areas with above-average prevalence of HIV infection for blacks compared to the national average
The researchers also looked at survey data from the 2010-2014 American Community Survey (ACS), which collects social and demographic information nationwide. They examined how factors such as education, home ownership and unemployment might relate to HIV prevalence in the 69 southern counties that have HBCUs.
- About 80 percent of southern counties with HBCUs have rates of HIV infection in blacks above the national average.
- On average, about 616 of every 100,000 people of all races in southern counties with HBCUs are HIV positive. Nationally, about 295 of every 100,000 are HIV positive, on average.
- The researchers suggest that HBCUs could be “important public health partners for helping to develop structural interventions that strengthen HIV policies in support of health equity.
HBCU Awareness Efforts Today
In an urgent bid to counter the decline in the utilization of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in the fight against HIV, particularly among Black and brown communities, the Human Rights Campaign has instituted an initiative focusing on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
A team of 12 students will take on the role of PrEP Peer Educators with a mission to combat HIV and AIDS-related stigma on HBCU campuses through public awareness campaigns focused on PrEP, HIV testing, and treatment options.
The Advocate, a sister publication to Plus, recently held a deep-dive conversation with the director of the HRC’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program, Leslie Hall, and the associate director of HIV & Health Equity, Vanessa Castro, to delve into the nuances of this significant program. The discussion explored the contemporary landscape of HIV prevention efforts and the role the HRC’s program plays in shaping the future.
Detailing the inception of the program, Hall emphasized it was crafted to fill the knowledge void on HBCU campuses about PrEP and reduce stigma, a significant barrier hindering students from getting tested or even visiting wellness centers. He voiced concerns over the decline in Black and brown individuals, specifically Black gay men, initiating and sustaining PrEP usage.
This initiative took off with a grant from Gilead Sciences, allowing a cohort of student leaders to be trained as PrEP educators, breaking the chains of misinformation and guiding peers seeking prescriptions.
Notably, the program has adjusted its focus, steering towards students who are not only well-rounded but comfortable discussing HIV and other related topics openly, Hall highlighted, emphasizing a strategy to prioritize areas and campuses with more significant needs and potential for outreach.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Event
On February 6th, Historically Black, Hampton University Football Player, Byron Perkins and guests attended the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Event at HQ DC House in support of this important day.
Today’s initiatives stands as a beacon of hope, ensuring that the fight continues with renewed vigor, harnessing the power of knowledge and the spirit of community collaboration to promote a future devoid of HIV-related stigmas and disparities.
Today we urge you all to help us raise awareness and foster a community committed to eradicating the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.