National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
Written by UCAN Board of Directors
February 7, 2013
Observed each year on February 7, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) is a day to promote HIV testing and raise awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS in the Black community - one of the communities hardest hit by the disease. This year’s NBHAAD theme, "I am my brother/sister’s keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS," reminds us that we must work together for the collective good and sometimes this work requires us to put up a good fight.
The spirit of this theme is reflected in the 2013 documentary film, "How to Survive a Plague." The film traces the history of AIDS activism in the 1980s and 1990s. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the film portrays two groups, ACT UP and Total Action Group (TAG), working to shape the country’s response to the AIDS crisis.
Armed with their voices and fueled by their anger and passions, they stormed government buildings, pharmaceutical companies, political events, and churches chanting the message "Act up, Fight back, Fight AIDS!" Sadly, many of these heroes died without getting to see the fruits of their labor - advances in the treatment of the disease that allows people living with HIV/AIDS to live longer lives.
Despite the gains made as a result of such bold, in-your-face activism, the struggle continues and certain communities are more adversely affected than others. More than any other racial/ethnic minority group, the Black community, and Black gay men in particular, continue to be disproportionately affected by this disease. In young Black gay men, the numbers are especially staggering with approximately 1 in 4 new HIV infections occurring among this group according to the CDC.
Several factors drive this disparity and it is time for us not just to talk about it but to also take action. While some are seeing the possibilities of an AIDS free generation, the stigma of HIV coupled with homophobia continues to contribute to the slow response to addressing the HIV in the Black community. Until we can have real conversations about the issues that divide us, we will continue to lose this battle.
We must continue the work started by groups like ACT UP and TAG to ensure that the stories and lessons are not forgotten. This year, for NBHAAD, think about what you can do to: Act up, Fight back, Fight AIDS.
UCAN, Inc. Board of Directors:
Oliver W. Martin, III