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February 7, 2014

Dear Colleague,

Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). The theme for this observance—“I Am My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS!”—reminds us that our work to end HIV and AIDS is not solitary, but depends on nurturing partnerships and community engagement.

In the United States, blacks are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV, accounting for 44% of new HIV infections in 2010. Black gay and bisexual men make up the majority of new infections among blacks. Young black gay and bisexual men and teens aged 13 to 24 are particularly affected accounting for more new infections in 2010 (4,800) than any other group by race/ethnicity, age, and sex.

We have seen some encouraging signs. The number of new HIV infections among blacks overall (an indicator for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy) is on target to meet a 25% reduction goal by 2015. Additionally, new HIV infections among black women declined 21% in 2010 compared to 2008. Finally, a higher proportion of blacks (65%) report ever having been tested for HIV compared to Hispanics/Latinos (46%) or whites (41%).

These numbers are promising, but more work needs to be done. The most recent data available show that

  • In 2010, 1 in 6 (17%) blacks who were living with HIV were unaware of their infection, and 1 in 4 (23%) were diagnosed with AIDS, missing the opportunity to get early medical care, improve their health, and prevent transmission to others; and
  • Only one-third of blacks who receive a diagnosis of HIV are in medical care with viral suppression, according to an article released in a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released in conjunction with NBHAAD.

Promoting regular testing

These findings point to the urgent need for more HIV testing among blacks and greater awareness that getting tested once may not be enough—test results expire with each risky act. Fortunately, HIV testing has never been easier. Clinics, health departments, and community-based organizations offer quick testing on-site or at events like gay pride. It is easy to locate testing sites across the country using HIVtest.cdc.gov. As well, there are two home tests now available in many pharmacies.

Expanding prevention tools

In addition to promoting testing and standard behavioral approaches—having fewer partners, using condoms consistently and correctly, and engaging in lower-risk sexual behaviors—people might also consider newer HIV prevention tools such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for people at ongoing high risk and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for those at risk after a single sexual encounter. For people who have HIV, it is important to know that effective antiretroviral therapy not only can improve their health but can greatly reduce their chance of transmitting the virus to partners.

In 2013, CDC provided $339 million to state and local health departments to fund HIV prevention activities such as testing, condom distribution, prevention efforts among people living with HIV, and policy initiatives. Another award of $55 million in 2011 supports HIV prevention services over 5 years for young MSM and transgender persons of color and their partners.

Through our Act Against AIDS communication campaigns, we seek to increase basic knowledge and promote testing. The Take Charge. Take the Test.campaign, for example, focuses on increasing HIV testing among black women and Testing Makes Us Strongeraims to increase HIV testing among black MSM.

The Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiativeis a partnership among CDC and many of the country’s leading organizations representing racial/ethnic populations most affected by HIV to help mobilize communities nationwide.

Strengthening the continuum of care

The Care and Prevention in the United States (CAPUS) Demonstration Project currently implemented in eight states supports increased testing and optimizing linkage to, retention in, and re-engagement with care and prevention services for newly diagnosed and previously diagnosed racial/ethnic minorities with HIV. The Affordable Care Act increases coverage for HIV testing and ensures that insurance companies can no longer deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, including HIV, strengthening opportunities for continuum of care.

Preventing HIV among blacks is a top CDC priority. Our success as a nation depends on the success of our local efforts in the communities that are most disproportionately affected by HIV. On this National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, it is important to remember we are all in this together as we work toward an AIDS-free generation. Thank you for your support in this effort and look forward to continued collaboration.

Sincerely,

/Jonathan Mermin/

Jonathan H. Mermin, M.D., M.P.H.
Director
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/nchhstp

/Kenneth G. Castro/

RADM Kenneth G. Castro, MD
Acting Director, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/hiv

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