Today, December 1, marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Started in 1988, the day is observed as an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have passed away from any AIDS-related illnesses.
Black gay and bisexual men are significantly more likely to acquire HIV in their lifetime, and the graph below (taken from the most recent HIV Surveillance Report in 2017) shows the number of newly infected gay/bi men in the United States broken down by race.
Clearly, men of color, particularly Black men, are the most affected by the epidemic. In fact, the CDC reported that one in six men who have sex with men (also known as MSM) will acquire HIV in his lifetime, and the number increases to one in four for Latino MSM and one in two for Black MSM. The number is only 1 in 11 for white MSM.
In recognition of the World AIDS Day, David Johns, Executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), released a statement dispelling common myths and drawing attention to the disproportionate impact the HIV/AIDS epidemic has on Black communities.
Read Johns' entire statement below:
"We recognize those we have lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and acknowledge the work still required to end the epidemic. Today, given scientific, medical, and social advancements no one has to die as a result of HIV/AIDS. Ending the epidemic in our lifetime is not a question of resources but a question of will. Will we fight to ensure that those most neglected and ignored receive the health care and legal protections we all need to thrive?
In spite of noteworthy improvements in HIV testing and treatment for many communities, Black people still experience the highest infection and mortality rates. It is not the case that Black people engage in riskier sexual behavior nor can we blame increases rates on myths about brothers on the down low. Black people are disproportionately impacted because of racism and systems set up to deny us access to health care, preventive medicine like PrEP, and stigma, which forces many to avoid being tested or engaging in conversations about sexual health.
AIDS needs a cure, but our communities also need resources that cannot be developed in a laboratory. Black and Brown people, LGBTQ people, and poor people need better access to quality and affordable healthcare, administered by medical providers who are culturally competent. Our communities need resources to deal with the trauma that results from transatlantic enslavement, anti-Blackness and white supremacy. Our country needs policies that provide uniform and basic human rights professions to everyone.
The National Black Justice Coalition pledges to continue the fight for federal policy solutions can save lives. The NBJC has developed the Words Matter HIV Toolkit to support members of our community in having conversations to eliminate stigma and increase testing, treatment, and support. We hope that it serves as a critical resource for everyone engaged in working woke and affirming that Black lives matter. To end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Black community, in our lifetime, it will require each of us to do more and be better at eliminating HIV stigma and fostering welcoming environments where everyone feels safe and supported. On this day, let us remember that the fight against HIV/AIDS is far from over, and we have all of the tools needed to win."