Calling attention to the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS among African-Americans, today Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), urged community leaders to continue prevention efforts highlighted as part of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7 aims to motivate African-Americans to learn more about HIV/AIDS, get tested for HIV, get involved in local HIV-related community efforts, and seek treatment if currently living with HIV. This year’s theme is “Black Life is Worth Saving.”
“In California, African-Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV, comprising less than 7 percent of the population yet accounting for 18 percent of the reported HIV/AIDS cases,” said Dr. Horton.
The CDPH Office of AIDS coordinates state programs, services, and activities relating to HIV/AIDS, including:
Promoting routine HIV testing in high-risk areas as well as for women at high-risk through collaboration with the Black Infant Health Program;
Supporting health education and risk-reduction programs for African American men who have sex with men through local health department HIV prevention programs;
Providing technical assistance and capacity building for community-based organizations that serve African Americans; and
Creating a research and evaluation plan for prevention interventions.
Health experts estimate that more than 20 percent of individuals infected with HIV in the United States are unaware of their infection. In California, it is estimated that at least 140,000 people are currently living with HIV or AIDS, including between 30,000 and 33,000 Californians who have HIV but are unaware of it.
“If people test sooner and learn their status, they can take full advantage of medical interventions now available that have been shown to substantially reduce morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Horton. “They can also take appropriate action to avoid further spread of the disease.”
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that went into effect last year that promotes HIV testing. AB 682 (Berg, Garcia, Huffman) removes barriers to routine HIV testing and screening in medical settings when an individual seeks regular medical care. The law eliminates the requirement that a person must give written consent for the test but gives a person the right to decline testing.
Communities throughout California will be participating in Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day events. For information about AIDS or HIV testing services, visit www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/aids