Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day to reflect on the lives touched by and lost to HIV/AIDS. In the United States, HIV continues to take its toll on African Americans, who have the highest rates of HIV infection of all races. Blacks make up just 14 percent of the U.S. population, yet account for almost half of those living and dying with HIV and AIDS in this country.
There are many complex social and environmental factors that fuel the epidemic in African American communities. Especially concerning is poverty and the high level of unemployment within black communities during this current economic crisis. There are other factors associated with poverty that directly and indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection and affect the health of people living with HIV, including limited access to quality health care, housing, and HIV prevention education. Additionally, higher prevalence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in black communities can significantly increase the chance of contracting HIV infection. Moreover, stigma and homophobia – far too prevalent in every community – continue to prevent many African Americans from seeking HIV testing, prevention and treatment.