Sexual Health news - HIV

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day educates the country on racial disparities in STDs

In honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Kevin Fenton, M.D., the director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention issued a statement calling for public leaders, health experts and community- and faith-based officials to make every effort they can in order to curb HIV infection among the African American Community.

Fenton explained the efforts that the CDC has made, and stressed the importance of comprehensive educational campaigns.

"At CDC, HIV prevention in black communities remains one of our top priorities.  Last year, we invested more than half of our HIV prevention budget to fight HIV among African-Americans. We’ve expanded initiatives to reach more African-Americans with HIV testing, increased the number and reach of HIV prevention programs in black communities, and are working with our partners, like those in the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, to launch campaigns aimed at increasing HIV testing and awareness among black women and black gay and bisexual men, among other groups," Fenton wrote in a statement on the CDC website.

There have been a number of medical breakthroughs in the three decades since AIDS became an epidemic in the country. For instance, pre-exposure prophylaxis can significantly reduce a person's chances of becoming infected with HIV when in a relationship with another individual with a positive status.

Additionally, studies have proven that educational initiatives, which promote regular testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and proper condom use, are effective in reducing rates of infections among high-risk demographics.

Fenton pointed out that while African Americans represent just 14 percent of the U.S. population, they make up an estimated one-half of HIV positive individuals in the country. Moreover, men who have sex with men (MSM), especially those in the 13 to 29 age group, are affected at an alarmingly disproportionate rate. Individuals in this demographic make up about 40 percent of new infections, and the numbers have increased by 50 percent in the past three years.

One way in which the public and officials can help curb the rates of infection among MSM is to combat homophobia and stigma, which sometimes prevents an individual from obtaining STD testing.