June 25, 2009
Washington, D.C. -- In commemoration of NAPWA's 15th annual National HIV Testing Day (NHTD), two leading AIDS organizations draw attention to the AIDS epidemic in Black America and release national report on the state of HIV testing in Black America.
Well over 100,000 Black Americans are living with HIV but are unaware of their infection, charges a new report released today by the Black AIDS Institute (The Institute) and the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA). "Passing the Test: The Challenges and Opportunities of HIV Testing in Black America" calls on every Black person in America to find out their HIV status. CDC researchers estimate that up to 70% of new infections in Black America are transmitted by people who are unaware of their HIV infection. People with undiagnosed HIV infection are three-and-a-half times more likely to expose others to the virus than people whose infection has been diagnosed.
In a press conference attended by the Obama Administration's director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, Jeff Crowley, Congresswomen Barbara Lee, and Maxine Waters and Delegates, Donna Christian Christensen, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention Frank Oldham, Jr. President and CEO of the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA), and Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute (The Institute), the Black AIDS Institute and the NAPWA released the first ever national report on the state of HIV Testing in Black America.
"Given the disproportionate impact the AIDS epidemic is having on Black communities, it is long over due for us to focus on Black America during this year's National HIV Testing Day activities", said Frank Oldham, President and CEO of NAPWA.
"Knowing your HIV status is a right and a responsibility", says Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. "Knowing your partners HIV status can save your life."
There are many reasons why Blacks are not benefiting equally from effective treatments. But one is especially important. Far too many Black people do not know their HIV status.
In a recent survey of Black residents of Washington DC, 40% had never been tested for HIV. This, in a city where authorities believe 1 in 20 residents are living with HIV!
The report indicates inadequate HIV testing rates are making it impossible to respond effectively to the AIDS crisis in Black America. Inadequate testing reduces the effectiveness of HIV treatments. Individuals who are tested late in the course of HIV infection are significantly more likely to die than those who are diagnosed earlier.
The principal message of this report is every Black American needs to know their HIV status. Ironically, testing rates are higher among Black Americans than among Whites and Hispanics. But these rates do not offset the higher-than-average risk that Black Americans face. When Black women are 19 times more likely to contract HIV than white women, they need testing rates that are more than just marginally better; They must be vastly higher.
President Obama has committed to developing the country's first national AIDS strategy. The administration's first budget provides $53 million in additional funding for CDC. These actions provide hope and illustrate the administrations strong commitment to rectifying the health disparities experienced by Black communities.
"The President believes we must focus renewed attention on the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic. This means shining a spotlight on the disproportionate incidence and prevalence of HIV/AIDS among African Americans. If Black America were its own country, it would rank 16th among nations for the number of people living with HIV. National HIV Testing Day is a day of action when all Americans are encouraged to take the test and take other steps to protect themselves and their communities," said Jeffrey S. Crowley, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy.
The U.S. has never really gotten serious about promoting HIV testing in Black America. Although the federal government provides funding for HIV testing services, it must prioritize adequate funding to market these services. According to the report, the lack of seriousness is evident from the fact that the US has never had a national AIDS strategy. A serious commitment to promote HIT testing would involve a national plan that specifically tells all the different federal agencies how they should work together to increase testing rates.
"It's often said that knowledge is power. In the case of AIDS, nothing could be truer. The HIV test can help solve the AIDS problem in Black America. It's time to get serious." says Wilson.
The new report includes a series of recommendations to different stakeholders.
The full report and executive summary are available at www.BlackAIDS.org.
Mayors throughout the US are requested to publicly support NHTD by: hosting HIV testing campaigns in their cities, conducting press conferences to discuss local HIV testing resources, issuing proclamations in support on NHTD, and, modeling good behavior by receiving an HIV test to illustrate the importance of knowing your HIV status is to your health. NAPWA and its' partner Orasure Technologies distribute a complimentary rapid oral HIV tests among the 84 cities participating in the 2009 Mayors Campaign Against AIDS. Integral to the NHTD Mayors Campaign Against HIV, NAPWA will participate in opening the day of trading at NASDAQ.
Test 1 million is a call to action to engage all of Black America, from individuals to institutions, in a community wide effort to end the AIDS epidemic. The Test 1 million movement is one of awareness, personal responsibility, and collective action. The campaign is a partnership with the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Magic Johnson Foundation, Black AIDS Institute and leading national Black organizations and institutions. Test 1 million is supported by the Black AIDS Media Partnership, a sustained commitment among U.S. media companies to work together in a coordinated response to the AIDS crisis facing Black America.
"The number one priority for African Americans must be to end AIDS in our communities. With the bold leadership of President Obama and the strong commitment of Mayor Fenty and DC City Council Chair Vince Gray, let's start right here in the Capitol of the United States!"
Each year, on June 27, NAPWA, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Prevention Information Network (NPIN), and over 10,000 national and local entities across the country organizes National HIV Testing Day. This unique initiative sends the message to those at risk from those already living with HIV that there are powerful reasons for learning one's HIV status.
NAPWA was one of the first AIDS organizations to advocate that people at risk of infection should seek out voluntary HIV counseling and testing. NAPWA advanced this effort during 1995 by launching the National HIV Testing Day campaign. As people living with HIV/AIDS, NAPWA knew that knowledge of HIV status was essential to making informed decisions about their lives. For more information about the Test 1 million campaign go to www.Test1Milion.org.