Five for Life

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: Get Educated, Get Tested, Get Involved, and Get Treated

In 2005, black women accounted for more than two-thirds of newly diagnosed HIV cases among women, and black men accounted for half of new diagnoses among U.S. men. Feb. 7, marks the eighth annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in which a series of more than 2,300 events will be held nationwide and around the world to educate African Americans on how to protect themselves from contracting and spreading the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented NBHAAD in 1999. Of the activities registered for NBHAAD, the marches are the most visible. Organizers in Los Angeles expect hundreds to attend their sixth annual AIDS rally in South Central. The rally will culminate to form a human billboard depicting an enormous AIDS ribbon. Although there will be AIDS awareness galas, plays, and conferences with appearances by high-profile individuals, including Colin Powell, Creflo Dollar, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Tony Dungy, the majority of events are grassroots efforts that are centered around education, prevention, testing and treatment, and sponsored by local churches, community centers, and clinics. This year there are 400 more events than in 2007. On Feb. 8, Lamont Evans, chief executive officer for Healthy Black Communities Inc., one of the lead organizations for NBHAAD, and organizers will announce their plans to test 1 million individuals by 2009. According to Evans, testing is the catalyst that heightens awareness about prevention of HIV/AIDS.

“HIV/AIDS is affecting the African American community in a way like no other disease at present,” says Dr. Garth Graham, deputy assistant secretary for minority health at the Office of Minority Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Here are five reasons to make getting tested a priority:

  1. It is simple and easy. “If you are scared of needles we have alternatives,” explains Graham. “Saliva can be tested now instead of blood.” Plus, no more waiting; results are available in 20 minutes. Sites such as www.hivtest.org will explain some of the less invasive tests available.
  2. Knowing is half the battle. Getting tested doesn’t mean a death sentence, offers Graham. It means there is treatment available. “If you don’t know, there might be a time bomb ticking inside of you that can take you out at anytime,” says Evans.
  3. Testing will heighten your awareness about prevention andtransmission. “We have to educate those who are living with HIV/AIDS,” says Evans. “And we have to work on the self-esteem of those who are willing to put the course of their lives at risk for a five minute thrill.”
  4. Protect OUR future. “Young people are our biggest casualty right now,” says Evans. “More young people [in their 20s] are getting opportunistic infections and are in the hospital with pneumonia. In the beginning we lost a lot of black talent. We don’t know how those affected and dying could change the course for black America; and we will never know if we don’t stop this epidemic.”
  5. Silence is not golden; it is deadly, says Graham. The faith-based community has started to fight the stigma behind HIV/AIDS. “If
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