The First Step as an Instrument of Change:“Take the Test, Take Control”

Rev. Keron Sadler

Today, June 27th is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) across the U.S. where we promote HIV-testing and early diagnosis.  More than half of American adults still have never been tested for HIV, yet testing remains the only way to know whether you or a loved one are infected. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that more than one million people are living with HIV in the United States. Of these, nearly 1 in 5 people living with HIV are unaware of their status.

Since 1981, Black Americans have been disproportionally affected by HIV.  There are great disparities in health, access to quality healthcare, and insurance coverage due to race and socioeconomic status in the United States. African Americans receive lower quality healthcare than Whites and have poorer health outcomes across disease areas (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2009). 

As a trusted voice in the community, the NAACP is addressing HIV in the Black community from a social justice perspective. The Association focuses on awareness, education and advocacy efforts targeted toward preventable diseases and health conditions that disparately affect the African American community and the systemic injustices that correlate with these disparities. Through our advocacy efforts, we hope to augment the voice of our communities on policies that directly affect health equity and access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care.

The NAACP Health Department is a proud partner of CDC’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI). AAALI partner organizations represent a wide diverse group of organizations including civic, social, civil rights and professional organizations as well as those in government, education and media. One focus of this initiative is to encourage people of all ages to "Take the Test, Take Control” and to continue to enhance conversations about HIV. Please visit www.actagainstaids.org to find CDC’s Act Against AIDS materials to promote HIV testing in your community. The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get an annual HIV test.

For additional information, a beneficial resource can be found on www.AIDSVu.org, a public resource for HIV/AIDS surveillance information. AIDSVu is a compilation of interactive online maps that displays HIV prevalence data at the national, state and local levels and by different demographics, including age, race and sex. The 2012 update of AIDSVu also includes new maps displaying how the following social determinants of health affect HIV prevalence and how the following social deter various social determinants of health – such as poverty, lack of health insurance, and educational attainment. The NAACP Health Department has taken an active role with AIDSVu by making a commitment to help win the battle against HIV/AIDS in the U.S., particularly within the African-American community. This data featured on this site highlights areas of the country where the rates of people living with an HIV diagnosis are the highest – such as in urban centers, and in the Northeast and the South – and where the needs for prevention, testing and treatment services are the most urgent.

The NAACP challenges you to take the first step as a change agent in your community. Change begins with knowing your status. No one knows their status based on how they feel or how they look. Taking control of your health by getting tested is the first step in protecting yourself and others from infection.  Get Tested and help save lives!