Today marks the 12th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a national grassroots initiative designed to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention among black Americans. The day encourages black communities to fight HIV/AIDS through education, testing, treatment and involvement in prevention activities. This year’s theme, “I am my Brother/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS,” highlights the need for black Americans, regardless of HIV status, to become involved and extend HIV prevention messages to friends, family and the general community and to fully support loved ones affected by HIV.
The burden of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. is highest among African-Americans. Although African-Americans comprised only 14% of the U.S. population in 2009, 44% of new HIV infections that year were within the black community. African-Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages, including death. In 2007, HIV was the ninth leading cause of death among blacks, and the third leading cause of death for black men and women aged 35-44.
These staggering numbers prove the need for increased prevention and intervention activities. The day also serves as a call to action for increased investments for research and development (R&D) for innovative health technologies, like an HIV vaccine and eventually a cure, that could be highly effective in stopping the spread of HIV, both abroad and here at home.
Federal agencies play an important and complementary role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its partners are pursuing an approach to HIV prevention that is in line with the goals of the White House’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy, focusing on the implementation of high-impact prevention programs that have shown the greatest potential to reduce new infections. The CDC also supports global health R&D that creates tools to combat diseases like HIV/AIDS, bringing us closer to Secretary Clinton’s goal of “creating an AIDS-free generation.”
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day calls to mind the toll that the HIV epidemic has taken in the black community in the U.S., provides opportunities for increased support, and offers tools and strategies for fighting HIV. Most importantly, it is a call to action for an accelerated search for innovative solutions to stop the spread of HIV once and for all.