National Black HIV / AIDS Awareness Day: Stop the Stigma

National HIV / AIDS Awareness Day for Blacks, celebrated annually in the United States on February 7, is an opportunity to look back on the progress made by the African American population in reducing the disproportionate impact of the virus, and to consider continuing prevention and education efforts.

According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIV diagnoses overall fell by 12% among African Americans from 2010 to 2016 in the United States. Diagnoses among gay and bisexual black men aged 13 to 24 fell 5%, and rates among heterosexual women and men also fell over the same time period, by 25% and 26%, respectively.

But the disproportion remains. African Americans made up about 13% of the US population in 2017, but accounted for 43% of all HIV diagnoses. Black men who have sex with men are the most affected subpopulation, with 9,807 new HIV diagnoses in 2017.

The problem is, there are no quick fixes to closing the impact gap. It is multifactorial and encompasses socio-economic aspects, discrimination, fear, homophobia and stigma.

“This is nothing new – we’ve seen these inequalities for a few decades now,” said David J. Malebranche, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine. Contagion® in an interview. “Particularly in the South East, you have issues of poverty, homelessness, archaic policies and politicians, and a lack of political awareness and resources that contribute to broader structural levels. Additionally, persistent issues of racism, sexism, gender bias against LGBTQ people, discrimination against transgender people, and gender non-conforming in society all create a basis for marginalization among certain groups. When you drop HIV into the mix, it’s hard to eradicate when these bigger problems persist. “

To tackle entrenched inequalities and societal attitudes, healthcare providers and clinicians should do 4 things, explained Dr Malebranche.

“First, be more humanistic and stop treating patients as diseases personified,” he said. “Second, stop letting their implicit and overt racial, gender, and other biases get in the way of their clinical decision-making. Third, be as empathetic and aggressive with their patient care as they would if they or a family member were walking for their patients. And fourth, just stop blaming patients when they don’t show up to the clinic or stick to medications, and instead look inside to see what they can do better to help patients participate in the process. health care.

The theme for this year’s National Black HIV / AIDS Awareness Day is “Together for love: stop the stigma“, Which urges everyone to” learn, be tested, be treated and get involved “.

“HIV stigma in communities can lead to delays in testing and treatment, and can delay life-saving prevention and treatment options such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis ( PEP) or antiretroviral therapy (ART) for those affected. needing it when it is perpetuated by medical systems and staff, ”said Dr. Malebranche.

From a government perspective, CDC is investing in increased prevention and surveillance efforts in populations and geographic areas most in need. The agency recommends that anyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once, with those considered to be at high risk getting tested each year.

The most important thing for people who are diagnosed with HIV is to seek treatment and continue treatment.

“At [National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day], help us make progress in reducing HIV among African Americans by fighting stigma and promoting HIV testing, prevention and treatment, ”urges the CDC. “Ultimately, we won’t be able to detect new HIV infections if we work together. “

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