February 4, 2015
Minnesota to observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7
Officials call for those at risk to get tested for HIV
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) will be observed in Minnesota on Feb. 7 as an urgent call for unity to address the HIV/AIDS crisis that is occurring among America's black communities.
Nearly half of the total AIDS cases reported and almost half of the people living with HIV in the U.S. are black, even though they represent just 14 percent of the U.S. population, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reports that 2,745 cases or about one out of three people living with HIV in Minnesota are black.
"African-American and African-born communities face the most severe burden of HIV infection rates in Minnesota compared to other population groups," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. "This is primarily due to the socio-economic and medical disadvantages they face. HIV prevention, testing, and care programs need to be made as economically and culturally accessible as possible."
With the national theme of, "I Am My Brother's and Sister's Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS," local organizers hope to encourage African-Americans and African-born persons to get tested, educated, treated, and involved within their communities to halt the spread of this disease. Getting tested for HIV is a critical first step.
"With this year's observance, we are emphasizing the importance of getting tested for HIV and knowing your HIV status now - not waiting for tomorrow," said Ehlinger.
Health officials noted that the earlier those at risk get tested and get into treatment if infected, the better their health outcomes will be and the less likely they will spread the disease to others. Local organizers will be offering free HIV testing opportunities and prevention education during the observance.
"HIV infection remains a highly preventable disease," said Ehlinger. HIV risk can be reduced by avoiding or delaying sexual activity, decreasing the number of sexual partners, always using latex condoms during sex, avoiding the sharing of needles or equipment to tattoo, body pierce or inject drugs, testing at least annually if sexually active, and getting into and staying in care if infected.
To ensure affected communities have access to HIV services throughout the year, the MDH's STD/HIV/TB Section currently funds 21 community-based programs and the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health funds six additional programs for HIV prevention and/or testing work.
The MDH website provides information and a calendar of local activities for NBHAAD at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/worldaidsday/nbhaad/index.html.
The 2013 MDH HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, which includes data specific for the African-American and African-born communities, can be found on the MDH website at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/hivstatistics.html.
Information about HIV is available from the Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP) AIDSLine, 612-373-2437 (Twin Cities Metro), 1-800-248-2437 (Statewide), 1-888-820-2437 (Statewide TTY), text AIDSLINE to 839863, or chat online at: http://www.mnaidsproject.org/. MAP AIDSLine offers statewide information and referral services, including prevention education, HIV risk assessments, HIV testing and referrals to HIV testing sites.
In a proclamation marking this year's observance, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton calls for all Minnesotans to strongly support NBHAAD and to get involved with initiatives to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in the African-American and African-born communities. To see a copy of the proclamation, visit the MDH website at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/worldaidsday/nbhaad/index.html.
Community HIV Testing Events – Free and Open to the Public
Friday, Feb. 6, The Aliveness Project NBHAAD HIV Testing Event: 3808 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55407 (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.).
Friday, Feb. 6, NBHAAD Free HIV Testing for Walk-ins: African Health Action, 1074 Robert Street South, West St. Paul, MN 55118 (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.).
Friday, Feb. 6, Free HIV Testing for Walk-ins for NBHAAD: Turning Point, 1500 Golden Valley Road, Minneapolis, MN 55411 (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.).
Saturday, Feb. 7, NBHAAD Free HIV Testing for Walk-ins: Open Cities Health Center, 409 North Dunlap Street, St. Paul, MN 55104 (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.).