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National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day underscores need for treatment and testing

February 07, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
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HIV/AIDS takes an especially high toll among blacks nationwide. "By race/ethnicity, African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV in the United States." That’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in its observance Monday of the 11th National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

African Americans account for almost half of new HIV cases, the CDC says. But the federal agency also is quick to point out that it's not race or ethnicity that makes the difference when it comes to HIV infection but social barriers that put African Americans at greater risk.

"Frequently, we know that if you don't have the means to see a doctor, you may not get an HIV test or treatment early in the disease cycle, when treatment can be most effective," the CDC says in its online report. "In 2007, nearly 1 in 5 African Americans were without health insurance versus just over 10% of whites. This disparity places African Americans at greater risk for late detection of a number of diseases." Dr. Kevin Fenton of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention talks about the HIV epidemic among African Americans in this video.

This Picture of Health blog from the Baltimore Sun reports that 78% of HIV/AIDS cases in Maryland occur among blacks. It also reports on steps that the state is taking to increase education about the disease.

And the CDC uses this day to underscore the importance of testing and treatment. Here's the CDC's Web page on how to find a test center near you -- either by calling or searching online.

Maybe this can help turn the tide on this devastating disease by next Feb. 7.

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