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|Efforts to end 'black HIV/AIDS epidemic' focus on prevention|
|by Ryan Watkins|
|February 07, 2012 12:11|
On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is pressing for an end to a health epidemic that disproportionately affects African Americans.
According to the CDC, African Americans make up just 14 percent of the total U.S. population, but account for nearly half of all HIV/AIDS cases in the country.
At current infection rates, one in 16 African-American men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, and one in 32 African-American women will contract the virus.
Many factors account for such a high rate among African-Americans, but more resources are available now than ever before, said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
“At CDC, HIV prevention in black communities remains one of our top priorities,” Fenton said in a commentary released Feb. 6. “Last year, we invested more than half of our HIV prevention budget to fight HIV among African-Americans. We've expanded initiatives to reach more African-Americans with HIV testing, increased the number and reach of HIV prevention programs in black communities, and are working with our partners, like those in the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, to launch campaigns aimed at increasing HIV testing and awareness among black women and black gay and bisexual men, among other groups.”
One of those advertising campaigns, Testing Together Makes Us Stronger, is currently running on this website and several other LGBT websites.
While no one can give an exact reason as to why the HIV contraction rates are so disproportionately high among African Americans, Fenton said that social stigma and homophobia play a major role in such high infection rates. Testing and awareness about the disease are the best ways to combat future infections, he said.
“We must also tackle factors such as homophobia and stigma – far too prevalent in many communities – that prevent too many in the black community from getting tested, and if HIV positive, from getting treated,” Fenton said. “Where you live and choose sexual partners also has a significant impact on your HIV risk. Higher rates of HIV in black communities and the fact that African-Americans tend to select partners who are of the same race increases the likelihood of being exposed to HIV infection with each sexual encounter.
“The harsh reality is that today, even in the face of great hope and promise, African-American communities continue to be devastated by HIV,” Fenton added. “Although only 14 percent of the U.S. population, African-Americans account for almost half of those living and dying with HIV and AIDS in this country."
For more information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's HIV programs, please visit www.cdc.gov/hiv.
Top photo: Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (courtesy photo)
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