February 7, 2014 marks the 15th year for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), a national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative targeted at Blacks in the United States and the Diaspora.
Baton Rouge still has one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in the country, though it dropped by one place in the latest rankings compared with other cities. In HIV/AIDS data released by the Centers for Disease Control, Baton Rouge had the second-highest rate of AIDS diagnoses in the country. Previously, Baton Rouge had the highest rate in the country, but dropped behind Atlanta in the new rankings, which are based on 2012 data. The actual rate of AIDS cases in Baton Rouge also dropped somewhat, from 29.4 cases per 100,000 people to 27.5 cases per 100,000 people.
The Black population has, by far, the highest rate of HIV diagnoses: Approximately 75 percent of all Louisiana HIV diagnoses in 2012 were among Black patients, while only 32 percent of the state’s population is Black.
NBHAAD has four specific focal points: educate, test, involve, and treat. From an educational focal point, the task is to get African Americans educated about the basics of HIV/AIDS in their local communities. Testing is at the core of this initiative, which is vital for those who are sexually active and those at high risk of contracting HIV. When it comes to community and organization leadership, getting Blacks involved to serve is another key focus. Black People from all walks of life, economic classes, literacy levels, shades and tones as well as communities (large and small) should get connected to the work happening on the ground in Baton Rouge and beyond.
And lastly, for those living with HIV or newly testing positive for the virus, getting them connected to treatment and care services becomes paramount.
This year’s theme is “I am my Brother/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS.” Our communities must challenge the mindsets of stigma and shame in our homes, communities, workplace, churches, mosques and temples, because we all need to take a stand against HIV/AIDS. You can’t lead Black people towards HIV/AIDS education, prevention, testing, leadership or treatment unless you love them.
A quote from the Positive Women’s Network of the United States read:
HIV is not something that “guilty” people get. It is not a punishment for cheating, lying, using drugs or alcohol, having more than one partner, or not asking the right questions. It is a virus whose transmission is fueled by poverty, ignorance, racism, sexism, homophobia, fear, violence, and many other factors – not by people with HIV.
For more information, a list of NBHAAD activities in Baton Rouge, and ways to get involved visit therougecollection.net.