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National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Portrait of extended familyOn February 7, CDC and partners observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to raise awareness that we can make a difference in the HIV epidemic in our communities by getting tested, treated, educated, and involved.

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was started 14 years ago to focus attention on HIV in blacks and African Americans,* the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV in the United States.

Blacks make up only 12% of the U.S. population but had nearly half (44%) of all new HIV infections in the United States in 2010. Half of new HIV infections in blacks were in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men,** of whom younger gay and bisexual men (aged 13 to 24) were most affected. These young men, in fact, made up more new infections than any other age group of men or women, regardless of their race/ethnicity.

Despite these numbers, there are encouraging signs of progress against HIV in the black community. Blacks are more likely than other races and ethnicities to report that they have been tested for HIV at least once—65% versus 46% for Hispanics/Latinos and 41% for whites. And the number of new HIV infections among blacks overall is on target [10.6 MB] to meet a 2015 national goal to reduce new infections by 25%. As well, black women had a 21% decline in new infections in 2010 compared to 2008.

But more work needs to be done to make sure everyone knows how to protect themselves and their partners against HIV.

* Referred to as blacks in this feature.
** Referred to as gay and bisexual men in this feature.

Photo: Gay couple smiling and hugging

Why Do Blacks Face a Higher Risk of HIV Infection?

Blacks do not engage in more risky behaviors than other races/ethnicities. But factors other than behavior can lead to more HIV in their communities.

  • A higher percentage of blacks are living with HIV compared to other races/ethnicities. This coupled with blacks tending to have sex with partners of their same race/ethnicity increases the risk of HIV infection with each new sexual encounter.
  • Rates of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are higher in black communities. Having another STI can increase the chance of getting or spreading HIV.
  • The poverty level in some black communities is higher than the national average, which can translate to less access to health care.
  • In 2010, 1 in 6 (17%) blacks who were living with HIV did not know it, and 1 in 4 (23%) were diagnosed in the last stage of the disease, missing the chance to get early medical care and prevent spreading the virus to others.
  • Blacks who are aware that they have HIV are not getting the medical care they need. Data from 19 U.S. areas show that only 1 in 3 blacks with a diagnosis of HIV are getting medical care and have viral suppression. Viral suppression means the level of virus in your blood is low enough to help you stay healthy and greatly decrease the chance of spreading the virus to others.

What Can Blacks Do?

The theme for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2014, "I Am My Brother's/Sister's Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS," means that everyone can be an important part of the solution to the HIV epidemic. The Strategic Leadership Council, sponsor of the observance, encourages blacks to

  • Get educated: Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) HIV Basics page for common questions and answers on HIV prevention, transmission, and testing.
  • Get tested: CDC recommends that health care providers test all patients between the ages of 13 and 64 at least once as part of routine health care. Some groups should be tested at least once a year. Remember, the results of a negative HIV test expire every time you have sex without a condom or share injection drug equipment. To find a testing site near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), visit the National HIV and STD Testing Resources page, or text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948). You can also use one of the two FDA-approved home testing kits available in drugstores or online.
  • Get involved. Raise awareness and fight stigma by sharing your story, volunteering in your community, or caring for someone who is living with HIV. Learn more through the Let's Stop HIV Together campaign and the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative.
  • Get treated. If you are HIV-positive, start treatment as soon as possible with antiretroviral therapy (ART), and stay on treatment. ART can lower the level of virus in your body enough to improve your health and greatly decrease your chance of spreading HIV to your partners. See CDC's Living With HIV page.

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