February 7 Is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

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The Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health is urging Georgia’s African-American population to get tested for HIV and know their status on February 7: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). While they make up only 30 percent of the state’s population, African-Americans accounted for 78 percent of the HIV cases diagnosed and 71 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS in 2007.

“While National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is specific to the African-American community, we encourage each individual who does not know their status to go out and get tested,” said Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford, acting director of the Division of Public Health (DPH). “The HIV/AIDS epidemic still remains a crisis for the African-American community, especially in Georgia. However, we can help reduce this burden by promoting the importance of early detection and ensuring that those who are infected get the necessary treatment.”

The African-American population accounts for more than 49 percent of the nation’s AIDS cases but make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population. AIDS is now the leading cause of death for African-American women aged 25 to 34, and the second leading cause of death for African-American men aged 35 to 44. Early testing and diagnosis, as well as disease management, are critical to help reduce the burden HIV/AIDS has on the African-American community.

Individuals should also take precautions to help reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS. To decrease the chances of becoming infected with the disease, the Division of Public Health recommends the following:

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1. Abstain from sex unless in a relationship with only one person whose HIV status is known to you.

2. If you have, or plan to have, more than one sex partner, use a latex condom and lubricant every time you have sex.

3. Do not inject illicit drugs. If you do, use only clean needles and syringes and never share them or use others.

In 2007, DPH received more than $1.9 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase testing and early diagnosis of HIV among African-Americans. With the CDC’s awards, the agency was able to increase HIV testing and counseling primarily in clinical settings such as emergency rooms and federally qualified health centers. From 2003 to 2008, HIV counseling and testing numbers among Georgians have increased an average of 15 percent per year.

Last year, DPH launched a social marketing campaign called “HERstory” specifically targeting HIV prevention, HIV counseling and testing, and treatment services for African-American women in Georgia. In addition, DPH supports a number of evidence-based, behavioral interventions throughout the state that target other high risk populations, including African-American MSM (men who have sex with men).

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