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Act Like Black Lives Matter

Act Like Black Lives Matter

Act Like Black Lives Matter

Why getting an HIV test is the first step to valuing our lives.

One out of every two black gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV within their lifetimes. That’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now predicts: 50 percent of all black gay and bi men will become HIV-positive.

Although it has become a manageable chronic condition for many white Americans, HIV is still a deadly disease among African-Americans. Despite being only 14 percent of the U.S. population, blacks represent 54 percent of the deaths attributable to HIV and AIDS-related conditions. Late or non-existent testing and/or treatment are both to blame. But there’s more.

9 Real Differences Between Drag and Drag Race FansAmong African-Americans there are currently 20.5 deaths for every 1,000 people living with HIV.  As of 2012, there were nearly a half a million African-Americans living with the virus. Without changes, that will translate to over 10,00 deaths. That’s a small town. Stacked end to end, 10,000 coffins would rise to more than three times the height of the Empire State Building.

All because stigma and shame keep us from addressing HIV and the hole it is tearing in the fabric of our community. How does this happen? Sure, we can point to social reasons African-Americans are bearing the brunt of HIV, including poverty, racism, mass incarceration, and poor medical care, but individuals, each of us, is playing a role too. When we make HIV a taboo subject, when we treat LGBT people and those with HIV like pariahs, we help make it so one in eight HIV-positive people doesn’t know their status.

Not knowing your status means you don’t get into care and don’t stop transmitting HIV to others. Stigma keeps those who do know their status from seeking help, which is one reason why only 37 percent of African-Americans who know their status are receiving antiretroviral medications. Of those in care, only 29 percent have achieved viral suppression; the point where the virus is contained and their chances of transmitting HIV drops dramatically.

ShutterstockThese statistics may be disheartening, but they don’t have to determine our destinies. We can alter our futures by taking control of our health and valuing our own lives. Acting like black lives matter—like our lives matter—means getting tested for HIV. Acting like black lives matter means getting in care if we’re positive or considering preventative options like PrEP if we aren’t. Get tested. Get treated.

Just act like Black Lives Matter — because they do. 

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Marshall Jones