The rate of HIV/AIDS infection among African Americans is so high that it deserves to be a continuing health concern, worthy of awareness beyond a single day of the year.
Five organizations funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used last week’s observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to spur individuals and agencies to think year-round about the dread disease and its consequences.
The statistics for new HIV/AIDS infections among African Americans continue to dismay those who study the disease’s remorseless trek across a diverse population. Nationally, the infection rate among blacks is eight times higher than it is among whites.
According to a survey in 2010, black men have the highest infection rate in the country, 103.6 cases per 100,000 individuals. Black women are at 38.1 cases, slightly below Hispanic males at 45.5. Infection rates are far lower among white males (15.8), Hispanic females (8.0), and white females (1.9).
HIV/AIDS can be prevented with exercise of reasonable caution. Most at risk are sexually active people who don’t use prophylactics, and drug users who exchange dirty needles and bodily fluids.
A stigma still associated with the disease discourages people who may suspect they are infected from getting themselves checked. Those who are infected but don’t want to know believe they have deniability if a future sex partner asks whether they test positive for the virus.
One of the goals of Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is to encourage as many people as possible to get tested. Detecting the disease early and seeking treatment for it will cut down on the number of people who are infected.
Because the symptoms of HIV/AIDS aren’t noticeable early on, thousands of unsuspecting carriers of the virus are infecting their partners. This disease is no respecter of race, gender, or economic status. There is no rational reason that any particular group should be disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.
Treatment and education are available to all without prejudice. This plague could end in the near future if everyone took it seriously every day, not just on one commemorative day a year.