Today, The Black Church and HIV recognizes World AIDS Day, a day on which people across the globe unite to raise HIV awareness, commemorate those who have lost their life to the virus, and inspire change, encouraging communities to get informed about the epidemic and take action in the fight against HIV.
While HIV is no longer a death sentence, as it was three decades ago, Black America continues to be ravaged by the virus, more so than any other racial or ethnic group. According to CDC data, if Black America were its own country, it would rank 16th in the world for new HIV infection. When we see the epidemic disproportionately affecting our communities more than others, we must begin to question if the root cause has less to do with behavior and more to do with social injustices.
We know that there are behaviors that put people at a high risk of contracting HIV and have contributed to the increased infection rate among African Americans, such as unsafe, unprotected sex and intravenous drug use with an infected needle, but we must not ignore the social injustices that make African Americans defenseless in the fight against HIV. Racism, poverty, poor housing, unemployment, high crime rates, lack of education, and political inequality robs communities of color the opportunity to live a long, healthy life by creating barriers in accessing services such as HIV testing, medical care, and treatment which are essential in combating the disease.
Black America is currently engaged in war against health inequities that keep us vulnerable to new HIV infections. The question is, how are we expected to win the battle and “Get to Zero” if we are not armored with the proper artillery to protect ourselves from the epidemic?
To fight back and make headway in averting new infections, we must change the way HIV is viewed and approached in the Black community by addressing HIV as a social justice issue. We must stop working to solve only half the problem with saturating our communities with HIV messaging that does not speak to the everyday harsh realities that our communities face, but take a more comprehensive and cohesive approach that invokes political and institutional change and brings us steps closer towards achieving health equity and social inclusion.
The Black Church and HIV initiative is concerting all its efforts in reversing the disproportionate rates of HIV by shining a spotlight on the inequities and disparities in Black America. The initiative is calling upon you to participate in this new quest for health equity so that we can emerge victorious in the fight for “Zero New Infections” in the Black community.
To learn more about The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative initiative and how to get involved, visit www.TheBlackChurchandHIV.org
The Time to Act is Now. Join the Fight.