February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
By Barrett White
Tuesday, February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day to help stop HIV stigma and increase HIV prevention, testing, and treatment in Black communities.
Black communities made up the second highest percentage of new HIV cases in Houston in the most recent data, accounting for 40% of all cases, despite only making up 23% of the city’s total population. The importance of equitable HIV outreach in the Black community cannot be understated. This is why, on this day and every day, Legacy works in the communities most impacted by HIV to connect those at risk to PrEP, and those living with HIV to ART.
“According to the most recent data from the CDC, in 2019 22% of people in the United States who were eligible for PrEP were prescribed it,” says Ashley Minkeu, Director of Public Health at Legacy. “Broken down by race and ethnicity, the data also shows that 8% of Black or African American people, 14% of Hispanic or Latino people, and 60% of white people who were eligible for PrEP were prescribed it.”
“This is exactly why Legacy believes in community outreach and collaboration. Black communities need access to this tried and true HIV prevention tool,” Minkeu continues.
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a bimonthly injectable or a once-daily pill that when taken as directed will prevent someone who does not have HIV from contracting HIV by up to 98%, per the CDC.
ART, or antiretroviral therapy, is medication that works to reduce the HIV viral load in the body to a “suppressed” level – meaning that the virus is virtually impossible to transmit to another person through sex. If a person living with HIV is able to remain on ART and keep their viral load suppressed, they can help prevent new HIV infection.
“In most cases, Legacy can help a patient access same-day PrEP or ART the day they come in for an HIV test,” Minkeu says. “HIV treatment and prevention are the best ways to end the epidemic and ensuring access to every community is the only equitable way to make a difference.”
According to the CDC, Black Americans comprise 42% of new HIV infections across the U.S., more than any other racial or ethnic group, but make up only 12% of the nation’s total population. Black gay/bisexual men bear the heaviest burden among both the African American and the overall population.
On this National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, get tested and know your status. It’s the first step in eliminating the stigma and ending HIV.