Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community
December 2, 2019, New York City, New York – The first ever global health awareness day, World AIDS Day was first commemorated on December 1st, 1988 at a time when the virus was, to some extent, still new and unknown especially in the Black community. World AIDS Day has been leveraged as a platform to celebrate and champion HIV prevention efforts, support those living with HIV, increase HIV awareness and knowledge, decrease stigma, and advocate for coordinated responses to the epidemic. The 2019 World AIDS Day theme is Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community. Over the decades, communities have contributed to a coordinated HIV/AIDS response in many ways.
For over thirty years, The National Black Leadership Commission on Health, Inc. (Black Health), formerly NBLCA, has engaged in community mobilization strategies in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other heath disparities that plague Black/African American communities. Now, thirty-two years later, there is a robust evidence base of effective practices for addressing the epidemic and an array of biomedical interventions that help to manage the virus, allowing persons living with HIV to have longer lifespans. Further, the advent of game-changers such as pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP and PEP), which help to prevent HIV infection, have shifted the HIV landscape dramatically.
Currently, approximately 37.9 million people globally live with HIV/AIDS. In 2018, an estimated 1.7 million people worldwide became newly infected with HIV. Approximately 62% of those living with HIV have access to antiretroviral therapy (ART), an increase of 1.6 million since 2017. Further, an estimated 79% of people with HIV globally knew their HIV status in 2018, which means the remaining 21% (about 8.1 million people) still need access to HIV testing services and linkage to and retention in care. According to the Center for Disease Control, Blacks/African Americans account for a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses and people living with HIV, compared to other races/ethnicities. In 2017, Blacks/African Americans accounted for 13% of the US population but 43% (16,694) of the 38,739 new HIV diagnoses in the United States and dependent areas.
This year’s World AIDS Day theme spotlights the essential role that communities have played in turning the tide against HIV at a time when budgets continue to be cut and funding for community organizations is shrinking. Our Outreach Enhancement Faith-Based Program and Campus Approach Report are illustrations of what is possible when communities drive HIV response efforts using “boots-on-the-ground” approaches that keep people at the center. The formidable strength of communities, as well as their advocacy, is needed to ensure that HIV/AIDS remains on the political agenda. Further, greater mobilization is needed to safeguard the progress that has been made thus far.
National Black Leadership Commission on Health, will continue to work with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including faith and community based organizations, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), policy makers, civic and business organizations, and the media, to educate communities and ensure that those who are most marginalized have access to equitable resources and care. Black Health will continue to fight this good fight until we see significant decreases in new infections locally, nationally, and globally.
For ideas about how to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS and encourage members of your community to get tested, click here.
The National Black Leadership Commission on Health (NBLCH), formerly known as NBLCA, is a 501c not for profit organizations with a mission to champion the promotion of health and prevention of diseases to reduce disparities and achieve equity within the black community.