Yesterday marked the tenth annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The day signifies a time where communities focus on strategy, testing, awareness, and treatment for HIV/AIDS in the black community.
One of the fundamental ways black men and women can reduce the spread of HIV in their communities and preserve their health is by getting tested for the virus during routine medical care, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Physicians. Identifying HIV infection early in its course is critical. A growing number of studies have shown that starting treatment early, while the immune system is still intact, is more beneficial to HIV-infected patients than initiating therapy later in the course of disease.
As a nation, we must knock down the barriers that prevent many Americans, especially African-Americans, from receiving health care in general, and HIV testing, counseling and treatment in particular. An insidious component of this barrier is persistent stigma around homosexuality, HIV-positive status and injection drug use. Fostering acceptance of all people, regardless of lifestyle, and encouraging discussions about the behaviors that increase risk for HIV infection will help create a positive climate for HIV prevention and treatment services in black communities. I am gratified that Congress and President Obama recently lifted the 21-year-old ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs, which have been scientifically proven to reduce HIV transmission among injection drug users and serve as a gateway to treatment for drug addiction, HIV and other diseases.
Adelle Simmons, Policy Advisor in the Office of National Aids Policy highlighted some steps that President Obama has taken to address HIV/AIDS in the black community through the creation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. For more information regarding HIV/AIDS and for resources please visit: Aids.gov.