GLAAD Observes National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Today, GLAAD is joining countless individuals and organizations around the country in observing the 12th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). NBHAAD was founded in 1999 by five organizations: the Concerned Black Men, Inc. of Philadelphia; Health Watch Information and Promotion Services, Inc.; Jackson State University - Mississippi Urban Research Center; National Black Alcoholism and Addictions Council; and National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. These organizations, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sought to provide African American communities nationwide with education about HIV/AIDS, offer accessible testing options, encourage community involvement, and connect those already affected by HIV/AIDS with adequate treatment.

Nearly 20,000 African Americans in the United States test positive for HIV each year. In 2008, the diagnosis rate of HIV among African Americans was 9 times that of Caucasian Americans. Given the disproportionate toll this terrible epidemic has had on the African American population, it is critical that we proactively implement and support education and prevention efforts that are specifically aimed towards the Black community.

In addition to the general African American population, studies show staggering rates of new HIV infection among gay and bisexual African American men. As reported by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), nearly 1 in 3 gay and bisexual black men living in an urban area is infected with HIV, and the majority does not know they are infected. "Clearly black gay and bisexual men face a serious uphill battle in the fight against HIV/AIDS," said Marjorie J. Hill Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of GMHC in a statement.  "We must continue to pay more attention to constructive HIV prevention messages that are tailored to this already-disenfranchised segment of our population.”

GLAAD has helped elevate the message of NBHAAD through the online media by placing articles at various outlets:

 At The Huffington Post’s Black Voices section, Executive Director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, discusses the stigma and silence surrounding HIV/AIDS in the black community that must be dealt with for the sake of health. She writes, “Discussing human sexuality and prevention techniques is not the same as offering an endorsement of or enabling unsafe sexual behaviors. On the contrary, helping our children and church-goers protect themselves is an act of compassion and faith. As parents and clergy, it is our responsibility…Out of love for our people and ourselves, we have to find constructive ways to embrace human sexuality without judgment.”

Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, outlined the organization’s four-part approach to ending AIDS among African Americans on TheGrio. “These paradigm shifts are imperative for every community affected by HIV, but they are especially vital for black communities,” he explained with reference to the forthcoming “State of AIDS in Black America” report. “Black AIDS organizations must become patient navigators, and information translators and disseminators. They must also begin to connect the dots between HIV/AIDS and the overall health disparities in black communities.”

On the GA Voice, AIDS United’s Regional Organizer for the South, Charles Stephens, addresses the growing need for resources to help prevent and raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in this area of the country. Stephens notes, “In the Deep South, 35 percent of all new U.S. infections come from the region, though it makes up just 22 percent of the country's population. Despite these numbers, the region lags behind the rest of the nation in HIV/AIDS funding. Failure to act in an impactful way could lead to a worsening of poor health outcomes for people living with HIV in the South, including death.”

GLAAD’s Communities of African Descent Media Field Strategist, Kimberley McLeod, wrote an op-ed for EBONY.com, highlighting the fact that many have blamed this epidemic on closeted gay and bisexual African American men, rather than examining the high-risk behaviors that occur independently of sexual orientation. “At the end of the day, the only thing blame does is fuel stigma. And stigma kills,” writes Kimberley. “So instead of pointing fingers at who we think is perpetuating the problem, let’s each become a part of the solution. We can start by talking without judgment about testing, treatment and prevention.”

For more information National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and to learn how you can get involved, please visit NationalBlackAIDSDay.org and continue to follow the GLAAD blog for more LGBT-inclusive coverage during Black History Month.

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