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Celebrating National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: We’re in This, Together

Richard Hutchinson, Jr. and Darwin Thompson - February 07, 2020

Today we observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). This day highlights the efforts of community-based organizations and advocates working to stop HIV stigma by encouraging disease prevention, education and testing within Black communities. Each year, NBHAAD is given a theme; for us, this year’s theme is most appropriate: “We’re in This, Together.”

Black Americans account for a higher proportion of people living with HIV and new diagnoses than any other race or ethnicity. In 2018, Black Americans represented 13% of the U.S. population, but accounted for nearly 41% of people living with HIV and 43% of all new HIV diagnoses. This is particularly an issue with young Black Gay and Bisexual men, among whom there was an increase of 12.3% in new HIV diagnoses between 2014 and 2018.

We recognize, however, that it will take more than medicine to change these numbers and end the HIV epidemic in the United States. Now more than ever, we must come together to develop initiatives that support disease education, prevention, care, and social and emotional support to those disproportionately impacted communities.

Over the last several years, scientists have made tremendous headway in treating people living with HIV, turning it from a fatal illness to a chronic condition for many people, provided they are engaged in care. However, social determinants such as stigma, poverty, access to care and education are still major factors in why individuals don’t get tested or seek medical care. This is particularly true in Black communities.

With community and industry working together, we can increase local organizational capacity to better support communities most impacted by HIV. One example is the Gilead COMPASS Initiative, a program launched in 2017 to partner with community-based organizations working to combat HIV/AIDS in the Southern United States. COMPASS supports holistic solutions to enhance local leadership and advocacy geared toward changing the public perception of HIV/AIDS in the southern region.

One COMPASS partner is He is Valuable, an Atlanta-based organization that works to identify, reinforce and celebrate the value of Black Queer Men and their communities. Through the COMPASS initiative, He is Valuable has received grant support for infrastructure improvements that will create long-term stability for the organization. This partnership helps to offer important programming to local communities, from clothing and food drives to sex education workshops.

Organizations such as He is Valuable are the essence of what we celebrate on NBHAAD. Today we honor people working on the frontlines to make a difference in their communities. We also recognize there is so much more that we need to do – and this once unattainable goal of ending the HIV epidemic can only be accomplished by working together.

Richard Hutchinson, Jr. is Co-Founder and Executive Director of He is Valuable, Inc.
Darwin Thompson is Associate Director, Corporate Giving at Gilead.