February 7th — National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day
Raising awarness in the community is the goal of the seventh annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day
Schmalfeldt: February 7th marks the seventh annual observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day. Although African-Americans account for only 13 percent of the U.S. population, in 2005 they represented about 50 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called that figure "startling" and suggested some reasons for such a disproportionate rate of infection in the African-American community.
Fauci: It is not just a uni-dimensional phenomenon. There are multiple reasons that go into it ranging from, for example, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For example, to be living in certain regions and areas where there is high degree of injection drug use, where there's high levels of sexually-transmitted diseases, where you have a density of HIV-infected so that the chances of an African-American man or woman coming into contact with an HIV-infected individual in the milieu in which they live is far greater than if you were a white, middle-class person in Iowa or something like that. When you talk about inner city areas, drug use — it self-propagates.
Schmalfeldt: Dr. Fauci pointed to another reason why some African-American males may be hesitant to get tested or seek treatment.
Fauci: Gay men in the black community are not as open about their gayness, or are they accepted in their own society being gay, as opposed to a white population in which they're very well organized, they're open about it, they counsel each other, they help each other. It is a greater stigma in some respects in the African-American community, which makes the prevention measures really much more difficult to deliver.
Schmalfeldt: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 211-thousand African-American men and women with AIDS have died since the epidemic began. According to the NIAID, advances in research over the years have had a positive effect. Recent studies indicate that at least 3-million years of life have been saved in the U.S. since the advent of combination antiretroviral therapy in the mid-1990s. Dr. Fauci said events like National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day have a part to play in getting out the word and encouraging African-Americans to participate not only in their own health care, but to take part in the research effort in whatever way possible — as scientists, clinicians, community educators, advocates and study volunteers. The key, he said, is awareness.
Fauci: Well, what we want to do is to raise awareness among the community and to spur on leaders in the community to outreach to the African-American community and to encourage them, for example, to get tested. This past year, the CDC has modified significantly their guidelines to make testing a part of routine medical care. Because, you know, of the million people HIV-infected in this country, twenty-five percent of them don't know they're infected. And if you don't know if you're infected, you can't get counseling about treatment for yourself or about how you can avoid infecting others. So we really need to be much more transparent, much more open.
Schmalfeldt: You can find more information about National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day online at www.blackaidsday.org. Information about prevention, treatment and vaccine clinical trials can be found at www.aidsinfo.nih.gov. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Anthony S. Fauci
Topic: HIV/AIDS Awareness