Resolve to Be a Healthier You in 2005
Resolve to Prevent HIV in '05
AIDS is a crisis in our community, and it's one we can do something about. This year, resolve to learn more about HIV/AIDS and take steps to help.
To get started, join thousands of African Americans on February 7 in observing National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness & Information Day . Community organizations nationwide will be hosting events aimed at educating blacks about HIV prevention. Visit the Black AIDS Day website to learn more and to find an activity near you.
The need to prevent HIV couldn't be more urgent. African Americans accounted for 50 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2003 - approximately 10 times the AIDS rate for whites.
Black women account for 65.2% of female AIDS cases reported in the U.S. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIV/AIDS rates among African-American women are more than 18 times higher than rates for white women.
Here's another important fact. The disproportionate burden of AIDS affects black women across the age spectrum. Older women need to be as aware of HIV/AIDS as younger women. The epidemic doesn't "card" potential targets.
What's causing this? The CDC reports that the primary HIV risk factors affecting blacks are:
- Poverty. Nearly one in four African Americans lives in poverty. Poverty-related problems, including limited access to quality health care, increases HIV risks.
- Partners at Risk. African American women are most likely to be infected with HIV as a result of sex with men. They may not be aware of their male partners' possible risks for HIV infection -- risks like unprotected sex with multiple partners, bisexuality, or injection drug use. And they also may be reluctant to negotiate or insist on condom use.
- Substance Abuse. Injection drug use is the second leading cause of HIV infection for both African-American men and women. But sharing needles is not the only HIV risk related to substance abuse. Both casual and chronic substance abusers are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as unprotected sex, when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD). African Americans also have the highest STD rates in the nation. Compared to whites, African Americans are 24 times more likely to have gonorrhea and 8 times more likely to have syphilis. In part because of physical changes caused by STDs, including genital lesions that can serve as an entry point for HIV, the presence of certain STDs can increase the chances of contracting HIV by three- to five-fold. Someone co-infected with an STD also has a greater chance of spreading HIV to others.
- Denial. Although African Americans are responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis, many have been slow to join the effort. One reason is reluctance to acknowledge issues associated with HIV infection, such as homosexuality and drug use. A significant number of African-American men who have sex with men identify themselves as heterosexual. Without frank and open discussion of HIV risks, many African Americans will not get the information and support they need to protect themselves and their partners.
The Good News
Yet, there is good news. HIV is preventable. The Federal Government promotes the A-B-C- prevention method pioneered in Uganda, Africa, with amazing results. The initials stand for Abstinence, Being faithful in a mutually monogamous relationship if you are sexually active, and consistent and correct Condom use if you are not using A or B. The A-B-C method is comprehensive and designed to fit real lifestyles. With A-B-C, you have options that work.
Another way to prevent HIV is to get tested, get your results, and encourage your partner and loved ones to do the same. With the availability of rapid testing, you can get tested and know your status in under 30 minutes. What's more, HIV testing is confidential and opens the door to HIV prevention, early detection, and early treatment. To learn more about HIV/AIDS and the benefits of testing, please visit the CDC.
To find a free testing site near you, click on CDC's national testing site.
Today can be the day that you personally resolve to help prevent the spread of HIV in the black community. Start now. Join thousands of African Americans on February 7 - National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness & Information Day. Pass the word, and visit the HHS Office of Minority Health for more information.
Best wishes for a safe and healthy New Year!