With HIV/AIDS continuing to devastate black communities, hitting the District's African-American community particularly hard, health officials are admonishing individuals to take a more proactive stance Feb. 7 -- National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD).
A national HIV/AIDS testing and treatment community mobilization initiative, NBHAAD is designed to encourage African-Americans across the United States and Territorial Areas to get educated, get tested, get involved, and get treated.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released last year showed the District had an AIDS diagnosis rate of 119.8 per 100,000 people as of 2009, far exceeding the national rate of 11.2 per 100,000 and of the rate in any other jurisdiction, although the report compares the District to states and territories and not other cities.
In June, the 2010 updated report on HIV/AIDS in the District said 3.2 percent of D.C. adults and adolescents are HIV-positive, well above the World Health Organization threshold of 1 percent for a generalized epidemic. However, the report showed a significant drop in the number of deaths among infected people and gains in the number of people seeking early detection and treatment and receiving free antiretroviral medication.
In 2009, an estimated 16,741 Blacks were diagnosed with AIDS in the U.S., a number that has slowly decreased since 2006. By the end of 2008, an estimated 240,627 blacks with an AIDS diagnosis had died in the U.S. In 2007, HIV was the ninth leading cause of death for all blacks and the third leading cause of death for both black men and black women aged 35–44.
Unfortunately, many of those who are infected with HIV are unaware of their status and may unknowingly transmit the virus to others which is one important reason for NBHAAD and its special events such as free HIV testing, town hall meetings, health fairs, church services, community marches and more.
In its 12th year, NBHAAD organizers remain focused on all cities where black communities are disproportionately impacted and the epidemic is not slowing. Besides the District, other cities include Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Newark, New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco, and Trenton.Several black celebrities and community leaders have served as the face and voice of this huge effort while encouraging thousands of black communities to mobilize and do something that will be long-lasting in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Past spokespersons include: President Barack H. Obama (during his time as Illinois Senator), Congressman Elijah E. Cummings; Tony Dungy; Idris Elba; Kimberly Elise; Lance Gross; Hill Harper; Taraji P. Henson; Tom Joyner; Congresswoman Barbara Lee; Ludacris; Master P; Tangi Miller; Patrik-Ian Polk; General Colin Powell; Sheryl Lee Ralph; Gloria Reuben; Romeo; Rev. Edwin Sanders; Tavis Smiley; and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.Currently, NBHAAD is directed, planned and organized by a group known as the Strategic Leadership Council. The organization partners with the CDC and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to mobilize communities and address specific issues in regards to local epidemics.
For more information on where you can get a free HIV test, more information about the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, or if you want to learn about the big international AIDS conference taking place in the District later this year, please visit the following sites: http://www.nationalblackaidsday.org/; http://www.nmac.org/; http://www.aids2012.org/.