February 7, 2009 was the ninth annual National Black AIDS Awareness Day. All across the country, thousands reflected on the sobering realities of HIV in the black community. Blacks make up roughly 13 percent of the US. Population, but they account for nearly 50 percent of all HIV cases.[i] In addition to being most likely to be already infected, young black men ages 13–29 are the most likely subgroup to be newly infected.[ii] Black men of all ages also account for 67 percent of new infections of the black subgroup.[iii] In a blog on both the Huffington Post and RH Reality Check, actress and leading HIV/AIDS activist, Gloria Reuben, commented on the current situation saying, “As a country, we should be not just startled by these numbers, we should be ashamed.” Ms. Reuben, who also serves as a member of SIECUS’ Board, also noted that National Black AIDS Awareness Day should serve as “the perfect time for us to recommit ourselves to defeating the AIDS epidemic here at home, as it continues to strike some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Nearly 75 percent of black women and men diagnosed with HIV contracted it through unsafe sexual contact.[iv] This clearly shows the importance of proper condom use and comprehensive sexuality education that can help people understand prevention methods and learn both communication and negotiation skills.
Joseph DiNorcia Jr., president of SIECUS, aptly summed up the situation in a statement released on National Black AIDS Awareness Day: “Neither HIV nor people exist in a vacuum and we cannot behave as if they do. While faced with the challenge of remaining HIV negative, many of the Americans who are most at risk for infection, including Blacks, also face challenges with poverty, community, and lack of educational opportunity. Millions of people need assistance in these areas and we, as the broader progressive community, need to join together to help them, not as “housing advocates,” or “poverty advocates,” or “HIV advocates” but as life advocates.”
[ii] MMWR Analysis Provides New Details on HIV Incidence in U.S. Populations, (Atlanta, Georgia: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 2008), accessed of February 13 2009, < http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/factsheets/MMWR-incidence.htm>
[iv] Black and HIV/AIDS, National Black AIDS Awareness Day.