World AIDS Day: “The Significant Impact of HIV/AIDS on Young, Black Americans”

Rev. Keron Sadler

HIV continues to be a relentless burden to the African American community. In the lead up to World AIDS Day on December 1st, a number of reports reaffirmed the disproportionate effect of HIV/AIDS on Black Americans, particularly among our youth. While a Kaiser Family Foundation  survey revealed that more than two thirds of Black youth are at least “somewhat concerned” personally about HIV/AIDS today (more than twice the percentage of whites), nearly 60 percent of new infections in young people occur in African Americans.

Despite a significantly higher level of concern, why are young Black Americans still so disproportionately affected by HIV? The newest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Signs, may shine some light on this issue. While African American youth are more likely to be tested than their white and Latino counterparts, the risk of contracting HIV is greater in Black communities because of the higher percentage of persons already infected. Quite simply, if you are living, playing and dating in a community where there is more HIV, you are more likely to contract the disease, regardless or your behaviors.There a number of disparities in the Black community that contributed to the rise of HIV and other health issues including lack of access to quality care, poverty and education.  The amount of money you make can directly affect the insurance coverage you receive and your risk for chronic diseases. 

It has been over two and a half years since the NAACP National Health Department worked closely with over 250 African-American senior faith leaders across denominations to identify challenges and barriers in addressing HIV/AIDS in the Black community. These conversations were a part of the 11-City “Let It Rise” faith tour. The 11-city tour was held in the following cities identified with a high prevalence of HIV among African Americans: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
We have new tools and resources available to engage our community. The NAACP’s initiative, “The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative,” draws upon the institutions already established in the community, using the power of the church in Black communities to fight the HIV epidemic.

In addition to the release of the manual, the NAACP Health team awarded mini-grants to the following cities to host World AIDS Day events in their respective areas: Asbury Park, NJ; Augusta, GA; Brooklyn, NY; Hampton, VA College Chapter; Jackson, TN; Mesa, AZ; Ocala, FL; Ohio State University Chapter; San Bernardino, CA; Texas Southern University Chapter; and University of Houston College Chapter.

If we don’t turn the tide on HIV in the Black community, we cannot possibly hope to get to the “AIDS free generation” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton envisioned in her speech at this summer’s International AIDS Conference. This World AIDS Day, we also need to start moving towards “Getting to Zero” here in the U.S. We challenge you to do your part by getting tested and knowing your status