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“Doing It” While Black – Preventing HIV/AIDS in the African American Community
By Tony R. Wafford, Contributing Columnist
Published January 14, 2016

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the reasons why African Americans are at a higher risk of contracting HIV is because we tend to have sex with partners of the same race/ethnicity. Simply put, we tend to have sex with each other, thereby increasing the spread of HIV/AIDS in our community. It’s not news that we already bear the larger portion of the HIV burden, but the fact that we as African Americans can do something to reduce this load on our community, is why I am asking for your attention and action today. We must prioritize HIV testing to protect ourselves and our community from the burden of this disease, and that is why I recently joined the CDC to launch a new campaign called Doing It, to prevent new HIV infections through testing.

Doing It is the CDC’s latest effort to address our smugness about HIV and AIDS in the U.S. Yes, I call our attitude towards HIV/AIDS smug, because it seems that we have pushed HIV/AIDS to the side as a disease that is no longer a threat or a “sexy public health campaign.” I’d even argue that we feel almost untouchable by this disease. I urge you to think again, because HIV/AIDS is still a threat. This campaign aims to normalize HIV testing as part of our frequent conversations with family, friends and loved ones. It encourages us to “do it” (get tested for HIV), because doing it will get us one step closer to reducing and eliminating the burden of HIV in our community. It empowers us to take our lives into our own hands for the greater good. With better tools and resources for HIV testing, the African American community should not be left behind in improving our chances to beat this disease.

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CDC states that African Americans are “the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV.” We have higher numbers of new HIV infections, more of us are living with HIV, and we have a higher proportion of people ever diagnosed with AIDS. The African American community cannot afford to be indifferent – or even judgmental – about HIV. No matter your sexual orientation, I encourage you to have the Doing It conversation with your current and future partners. Like I always say, it’s time to have grown-up conversations about HIV/AIDS and our sexual behaviors as individuals and as a community. We can’t be shy or afraid to talk about HIV testing in our community, no matter who’s doing it with whom.

I would be complacent if I didn’t mention that I know the challenges we face when it comes to HIV/AIDS in the African American community. From poor access to care, to economic poverty, to stigma and fear; I am all too familiar with the barriers we face in the struggle to improve our communities, and I am sure you are too. What I also know is that we are resilient people who have come a long way despite our challenges. I believe that we can overcome the burden of HIV/AIDS by being honest and non-judgmental with ourselves about sex and the risk for HIV, and by making testing an important conversation to be had no matter where you are – church, school, or work. For more information on this campaign, and to find a testing center near you, visit www.cdc.gov.doingit.You can also join us in making HIV testing a priority by showing your support for the campaign through social media and within your groups. Let’s “do it” together.

 

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