Tomorrow is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Spreading awareness is especially important in our community, as African Americans are still the highest group affected by the epidemic. In 2010, we accounted for approximately 44% of all new HIV infections in adults and adolescents 13-years-old and older. This number is alarmingly disproportionate, especially after considering that we represent only 12% of the U.S. population. BlackEnterprise.com spoke with Debra Fraser-Howze, founder of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS and the SVP of government and external Affairs at OraSure Technologies. Fraser-Howze breaks down our status as a community, how we can lower the numbers, and more.
Has the black community’s HIV and AIDS status increased or decreased within the past 10 years, and how many black men and women are affected by the epidemic?
HIV and AIDS affect African Americans more than any other racial/ethnic group in the United States. However, prevention efforts have helped to maintain stability in the annual number of new HIV infections among African Americans. The statistics still show that about 1 in 16 African American men and 1 in 32 African American women will be diagnosed with HIV in his or her lifetime.
What’s the most common misconception about contracting the virus and how do we dispel it?
The most common misconception is that the epidemic is over and that people don’t continue to die from AIDS-related complications. The truth is, for women ages 15 to 49, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death. For young people who are engaging in risky behavior because of the natural lack of vulnerability they feel in their young adult years, they are really putting themselves at risk because HIV is still out there. There are still 50,000 new HIV infections every year, and the majority are found within the African American community.
We need to stay really vigilant. Most people know that you can’t catch HIV through sharing a glass or a toilet seat, but it is deadly, has taken more lives than ebola, and has not gone away.
Does education experience or economic status correlate to HIV and AIDS?
No, not now, and it never has. HIV and AIDS does not discriminate. Anyone can get HIV and AIDS.
How do you recommend people, particularly those who are single and dating, take necessary precautions to prevent HIV/AIDS?
Take this epidemic seriously. Respect yourselves and your lives enough to take the necessary precautions. Certainly condom use is among one of those precautions, but another one is knowing your status. Know your status before you engage in a relationship. Have an open conversation about it with your partner.
See how you can get in-home testing for HIV/AIDS on the next page …