- The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) will honor the tenth annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7. Held during Black History Month, the special HIV/AIDS observance day serves as a "national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative designed to increase the awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment among Blacks in the United States and Diaspora."
"This years's theme, 'HIV/AIDS Prevention: A Choice and a Lifestyle,' evokes a message of self-empowerment," says Paul A. Kawata, NMAC's Executive Director. "One has the right and responsibility to protect themselves and others from HIV. It also is time to lift the stigmas around HIV/AIDS and sexuality that have created barriers to testing, treatment and care for many people of color."
The need for routinized HIV/AIDS care has never been greater in the U.S., particularly in Black communities, which have been disproportionately impacted by the epidemic since it began nearly 30 years ago. Though African Americans account for less than 15 percent of the U.S. population, they bear 70 percent of the country's HIV/AIDS burden and represent nearly half of all new HIV cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year. Of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. at the end of 2006, almost half (46 percent) were Black (506,000).
The potential impact of HIV on future generations of African Americans cannot be overstated. AIDS is one of the leading causes of death among African-American women nationwide, and is the number one killer of Black women aged 25-34 in this country. It is the third leading cause of death among African-American men in the same age group. Black gay/men who have sex with men also are testing positive for HIV in high numbers.
"Part of the 'choice' in ending HIV/AIDS in this country also means working in our communities and with our legislators to address the socio-economic determinants that historically have undermined the health and welfare of Black communities," says Ravinia Hayes-Cozier, NMAC's Spokesperson and Director of Government Relations and Public Policy. "Homelessness, lack of access to education and health care, as well as high rates of malnutrition, substance use, incarceration and poverty, have laid the foundation for AIDS in our community. It is up to us to create a new future free from HIV."
NMAC encourages everyone to get educated about HIV/AIDS this National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and spread the word to others. NMAC also encourages everyone to learn about HIV vaccine research, the success of which depends on diverse community participation.
For more information, go to www.nmac.org
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