World AIDS Day: Where Do Blacks Stand? - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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Dr. Kevin Fenton (Source: CDC)

Communities from South Africa to South Central Los Angeles and from Birmingham to Beijing will stop today and have a moment of silence for World AIDS Day. Observed on the first day of December since 1988, World AIDS Day was established by the World Health Organization to provide governments, organizations, and individuals an opportunity to raise awareness and focus attention on the global AIDS epidemic.

Globally, there were 2.7 million new HIV infections and 2 million HIV-related deaths in 2007, according to the 2008 report Status of the Global HIV Epidemic commissioned by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS. In the U.S., African Americans make up a disproportionately high percentage (45%) of those infections and deaths.

Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has consistently focused on addressing racial and ethnic disparities in sexual health.

Fenton spoke with to address the serious toll that AIDS/HIV is taking on the African American community and advise the best course of action to reduce that impact. African Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population but 45% of new HIV infections. How do you explain the high incidence of new HIV infections among African Americans?

Dr. Kevin Fenton: African Americans bear a greater burden of HIV than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, with rates of HIV infection that are more than seven times as high as that of whites and almost three times as high as Hispanics.  Within the African American community, black gay and bisexual men, and black women are most heavily affected.

While race itself is not a risk factor, there are a number of reasons why HIV takes such a heavy toll on African Americans. Perhaps most important is the large number of blacks who are already living with HIV. This high prevalence of HIV means that there is a greater risk of infection with every sexual encounter.

It’s important to note that African Americans do not take greater sexual risks than people of other races. A range of other issues are at play, including poverty, limited access to healthcare, drug use, and higher rates of other sexually transmitted diseases (which can significantly increase a person’s chances of acquiring HIV). Stigma and homophobia also play an important role by too often preventing people at risk from getting tested for HIV or accessing other important HIV prevention services.

New infections among African Americans have remained roughly stable for more than a decade — even though an increasing number of people are living with HIV, and can potentially transmit the disease. In addition, new infections have declined dramatically in several transmission categories where African Americans are disproportionately represented: babies born to HIV-infected mothers, injection drug users, and heterosexuals.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.