More than one million people across the country aged 13 and older were living with HIV at the end of 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, it's estimated that approximately 50,000 new infections of HIV are recorded each year.
African-Americans—primarily gay and bisexual men—are among the pool of people significantly impacted by the disease; black men and women are estimated to have an HIV incidence rate nearly eight times as high as the rate among whites, according to the CDC.
In 1999, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was established to educated people on the disease and how it affects the black race, and to also encourage people to get tested and/or treated. It's recognized each year on February 7th.
For this year's National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, The MED Foundation is presenting “The Getting to Zero Campaign" to help raise money for hospital-based strategies that combat the prevalence of the disease in Memphis. The event will take place Friday, February 7th in the FedEXForum's Fly Lounge and feature WMC-TV’s Konji Anthony and Memphis Grizzlies player Quincy Pondexter. It will last from 5:30-7:30pm.
According to the CDC, nationally, blacks account for an estimated 44 percent of the individuals 13 and older diagnosed with HIV. The statistics locally are also alarming. There were 7,922 people living with HIV in the Memphis Metropolitan Area at the end of 2012; 82 percent of those individuals were black.
The Ryan White Program, a local entity that provides financial support to individuals with HIV/AIDS who are uninsured or underinsured, is one of the campaign's sponsors. Dorcas Young, the program's administrator, said raising awareness of HIV/AIDS within Memphis is significant in seeing the amount of people affected by it lowered.
"As we’re more aware of the disease and more educated about the disease, we break down barriers and end the stigma of HIV," Young said. "When people feel stigmatized and feel like people are in fear of them, they won’t go and get the help that they need. There are a lot of people out there who are HIV positive but won’t get care."
To read more about HIV/AIDS in Memphis, check out my story in next week's issue of The Memphis Flyer.