During a recent moment of reflection, I realized there are certain shared memories for every generation. One milestone in the 90’s was definitely Magic Johnson’s announcement that he was diagnosed with HIV on November 7, 1991. In the 23 years since his announcement, we have made some progress in promoting awareness of the disease but more work must be done to decrease the rate of new infections.
In 1991, there were more questions than answers about HIV/AIDS. Magic’s announcement helped move the nation forward in answering a lot of these questions. We learned that you could have HIV/AIDS and still look healthy. Magic also reminded us that sharing a house, eating from the same plate and even playing basketball with people with HIV/AIDS didn’t mean you would catch it.
Now, we have more information than ever before to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS but according to the CDC, HIV infection rates among African Americans are on the rise. Here are the facts on HIV infection by the numbers:
- The rate of new HIV infection in African Americans is 8 times that of whites based on population size.
- African Americans accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years or older) in 2010, despite representing only 12% of the US population.
- At some point in their lifetimes, an estimated 1 in 16 African American men and 1 in 32 African-American women will be diagnosed with HIV infection.
Researchers have determined there are several reasons why HIV infection rates among African Americans are on the rise. Here are the most common reasons and solutions of how we can change the rate.
- Practice safe sex! The fact is that African-American communities continue to experience higher rates ofother sexually transmitted infections (STIs) compared with other racial/ethnic communities in the United States. Having an STI can significantly increase the chance of getting or transmitting HIV.
- Get tested and know your status. Lack of awareness of HIV status can affect HIV rates in communities. Almost 85,000 HIV-infected people in the African-American community in 2010 were unaware of their HIV status.
- Support extending healthcare for all Americans. The socioeconomic issues associated with poverty—including limited access to high-quality health care, housing, and HIV prevention education—directly and indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection, and affect the health of people living with and at risk for HIV.
We can prevent the spread of HIV in our communities but it takes action. Practice safe sex and get tested!