On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (Feb. 7) CDC Points to Signs of Progress in the HIV Epidemic within the African American Community
Statement by Eugene McCray, MD
Director, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
On this National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we have several reasons to be optimistic. Fewer African Americans with HIV are dying, testing is increasing, and the vast majority of African Americans living with HIV are aware of their infections.
New CDC data released today show that death rates among blacks with HIV declined 28 percent from 2008 to 2012 and nearly half of people reached by CDC testing programs in 2013 were black. This, in addition to data released last year showing that 85 percent of blacks with HIV are aware of their infection, are all encouraging signs of progress.
But, we cannot drop our guard; HIV is still a serious crisis in our communities. Even though we represent only 12 percent of the population, more than a third of people living with HIV in the United States are black. And new infections among young, gay black men are increasing at an alarming rate.
We need to confront HIV in the African American community head-on, using our very best tools and strategies. In addition to enabling people living with HIV to live longer and healthier lives, we now know that effective treatment can also greatly reduce the chances of passing the virus to others. This means that providing medical care and treatment could do more than anything else to both protect the health of people living with HIV and prevent new infections.
At CDC, we are working to break down barriers to diagnosis, care and treatment for African Americans, concentrating our efforts where we can have the biggest impact.
HIV testing is the critical first step towards accessing effective care and prevention services. But testing is only the beginning – once diagnosed, people need medical care and treatment. That’s why CDC provides targeted support to health departments and community HIV prevention organizations across the country to ensure African Americans diagnosed with HIV are connected to prompt and ongoing medical care.
When the test is negative, we need to share information about other prevention services. For example, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a powerful new tool that ultimately could play an important role in driving down HIV among African Americans.
Because HIV affects us as a community, we have to respond as a community. We all need to talk openly about HIV without stigma, shame, or homophobia. We need to increase testing even more to ensure everyone living with HIV knows they are infected. And we need to get informed – everyone should learn how to protect themselves and others from infection, including understanding how treatment can help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives and avoid infecting others.
At CDC, we are committed to the fight against HIV among African Americans. With your help, we can build on the progress we’ve already made and, one day, realize a future free of AIDS.
For more information on HIV, visit www.cdc.gov/hiv. To find HIV testing locations near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit www.hivtest.org