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For Immediate Release
Contact: National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
February 7, 2010
Statement from Kevin Fenton, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day reminds us of the continuing and devastating impact of HIV in black communities, and of the nearly quarter of a million African-Americans with AIDS who have lost their lives since the beginning of the epidemic. Today, after nearly 30 years of fighting HIV in the United States, the African-American community risks losing future leaders and thinkers to this entirely preventable disease. We cannot allow this to happen.
African-Americans continue to be the racial group most disproportionately affected by HIV. While blacks represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, blacks account for almost half of the more than one million people estimated to be living with HIV in the United States, and nearly half of new HIV infections each year. Of the nearly 25,000 infections estimated to occur each year among African-Americans, more than one-third (38 percent) are among young people ages 13 to 29. Young black gay and bisexual men are especially hard hit, representing more than half (55 percent) of all new infections among blacks in this age group.
Despite this staggering toll, we know that concern about HIV is declining among younger African-Americans. A 2009 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the proportion of African-Americans aged 18 to 29 who reported being “very concerned” about becoming infected with HIV declined from 54 percent in 1997 to 40 percent today. To end the HIV/AIDS epidemic among blacks, it is critical that we break through this growing complacency and end the epidemic among African-American young people.
We can start by talking openly about HIV and its impact in our communities. HIV should not be hidden, nor should it be considered inevitable or acceptable. It is essential that everyone – and especially young people – talk about HIV in their homes, their schools, where they work, gather and worship. Research shows that talking about HIV can reduce the stigma associated with this disease. It can also increase knowledge about how to prevent HIV, and motivate the practice of potentially life-saving behaviors, which include getting tested regularly for HIV and using condoms correctly and consistently.
At CDC, reducing the burden of HIV in black communities remains one of our top HIV prevention priorities. We fund effective HIV prevention and testing programs for African-Americans nationwide, and develop new prevention approaches to stop the spread of this disease. Among these efforts are several programs aimed at reducing risk behavior among young African-Americans – including an initiative that uses peer leaders to promote healthy sexual behaviors, and another that encourages dialogue about HIV between parents and children. Last year, we also launched Act Against AIDS, a nationalcommunication campaign that will use targeted messages to reach African-Americans most affected by HIV – including youth, gay and bisexual men, and women – with information about how they can protect themselves.
On this National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we also acknowledge the unprecedented mobilization of black communities nationwide to fight this disease. CDC is proud to partner with fourteen of the nation’s leading African-American civic and social organizations in the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative. These organizations – including the NAACP and the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity – are raising the visibility of HIV in all of their work, making HIV prevention part of their core day-to-day activities and helping to deliver life-saving prevention messages to a generation of young African-Americans coming of age in a new era of the HIV epidemic.
While the challenges we face are formidable, there is reason for hope. By effectively reaching younger generations, we can break the deadly cycle of HIV in African-American communities. In observance of this year’s NBHAAD, let us recommit ourselves to ensuring that all African-Americans – especially youth – have the information they need to protect themselves, and the support to talk openly and honestly about this preventable disease.
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