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Obama Administration HIV/AIDS Effort Targets Blacks

George E. Curry | 4/15/2009, 4:57 p.m.


At a news conference last week, officials from the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced a five year communications campaign, called the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, that will focus on education, prevention and treatment and using 14 nationally-known Black groups, including the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), to make people aware of the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

€Act Against AIDS seeks to put the HIV crisis back on the national radar screen,€ said Melody Barnes, assistant to the president and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. €Our goal is to remind Americans that HIV/AIDS continues to pose a serious health threat in the United States and encourage them to get the facts they need to take action for themselves and their communities.€

No community has been more devastated than African-Americans.

Phil Wilson Courtesy Photo
Although Blacks represent only 12 percent of the U.S. population, they account for half of all diagnosed AIDS cases. Black women account for 61 percent of all new HIV infections among women, a rate nearly 15 times that of White women. Black teens represent only 16 percent of those aged 13 to 19, but 69 percent of new AIDs cases reported among teens. One study found that in five major U.S. cities, 46 percent of Black men having sex with men were infected with HIV, compared to 21 percent of White men having sex with men.

An analysis by the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles disclosed that if Black America were a separate country, the number of African-Americans with HIV would rank 16th in the world, with more infected people than Ethiopia, Botswana and Haiti.

Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC€s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said the new federal initiative complements other work done by the CDC to combat AIDS.

€The Act Against AIDS campaign works directly to confront complacency and put the U.S. HIV epidemic back on the front burner, back on the national radar screen,€ Fenton stated. €The campaign is designed in phases and will feature public service announcements and online communications as well as targeted messages and outreach to the populations most severely affected by HIV.€
€We will begin with African-Americans and future phases extend to Latinos and other groups, including other populations of gay and bisexual men,€ Fenton said.

The first phase of the campaign was created the raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. A new Web site, NineAndaHalfMinutes.org, has been created to provide basic information about prevention, testing and treatment.

€Before we can stop any epidemic, we first have to recognize the magnitude of the disease. HIV is still a threat across the United States. And even though there are treatments to help people with HIV live longer than ever before, AIDS is still a significant health issue,€ according to the Web site.
It lists the following facts:
  • Every 91/2 minutes (on average), someone in the United States is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
  • In 2006, an estimated 56,300 people became infected with HIV.
  • More than 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV.
  • Of those 1 million people living with HIV, 1 out of 5 do not know they are infected. (People who have HIV but don't know it can unknowingly pass the virus to their partners.)
  • Despite new therapies, people with HIV still develop AIDS.
  • Over 1 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with AIDS.
  • More than 14,000 people with AIDS still die each year in the United States.