More than 1 million folks in the United States are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, but 20 percent of them don’t know they are infected. The National Association of People With Aids founded National HIV Testing Day 19 years ago. Today, on Wednesday, June 27th, Americans can go get tested and know their status.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the watchdog and information resource headquartered in Atlanta on everything that is health-related, African Americans face the most-severe burden of HIV of all racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Blacks accounted for a whopping 44 percent of newly diagnosed infections in 2009, and compared with members of other races and ethnicities, African Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages of disease, from new infections to deaths.
Here are some additional startling facts about HIV infection in the Black community:
- In 2009, Black men accounted for 70 percent of the estimated new HIV infections among all Blacks, which is more than six-and-a-half times as high as that of White men and two-and-a-half times as high as that of Latino men or Black women.
- In 2009, Black men who have sex with men (MSM) represented an estimated 73 percent of new infections among all Black men, and 37 percent among all MSM. More new HIV infections occurred among young black MSM (aged 13 to 29) than any other age and racial group of MSM. In addition, new HIV infections among young Black MSM increased by 48 percent from 2006 to 2009.
- In 2009, Black women accounted for 30 percent of the estimated new HIV infections among all Blacks. Most (85 percent) Black women with HIV acquired HIV through heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for Black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for White women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.
Health officials are rallying around this potentially life-threatening infection by urging those who are high risk — between the ages of 13 to 64 and sexually active — to get tested at least once. The agency is also stressing that HIV testing should be part of your routine health screening.
Individuals tagged as high risk for contracting HIV include: IV drug users, gay and bisexual men, and people who have multiple sex partners. The CDC is also urging gay and bisexual men who are sexually active to get tested more often, every three to six months.
Women who are pregnant should also be screened for HIV during their first trimester, so that they can take every precaution to protect their unborn child.
Be safe, get tested, know your status! If you test positive, you can work to stay healthy and protect loved ones. If you test negative, you can work to keep it that way. Ask your primary healthcare provider for an HIV test or if you need help in locating a testing facility nearest you, visit www.hivtest.org, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, or text your zip code to “KNOW IT” (566948).