The HIV/AIDS epidemic has been one of the most pressing global health crises of our time. Scientists have made significant strides in developing antiretroviral drugs that can help to stop the transmission of HIV and mitigate symptoms for individuals living with the virus. Currently, there is no cure for patients infected with HIV.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIV, which stands for the human immunodeficiency virus, is an infection that attacks healthy cells within the body’s immune system, destroying the immune system’s ability to fight infection, according to HIV.gov.
If left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), which occurs when the body’s immune system becomes damaged because of the virus.
How does HIV/AIDS affect African American populations?
African American people in the United States are disproportionately impacted by HIV. According to the CDC, in 2019, Black people made up 40% of people living with HIV in the US despite accounting for 13% of the population. Between 2015 to 2019, HIV infections declined by 8% overall, but cases continued to remain stable among Black people. Black men accounted for three-quarters of new HIV infections in 2019, while Black women accounted for 91% of heterosexual HIV cases— the highest of any other race and ethnicity in the United States, the CDC noted.
Economic disparities, limited access to healthcare and higher rates of poverty can impact access to HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services. Stigmas associated with HIV can prevent individuals from seeking testing, treatment, or disclosing their status due to fear of discrimination.
In the pursuit of eradicating the disease, the role of awareness cannot be overstated. It serves as the cornerstone of prevention, eradication and support for those affected. Throughout the decades, numerous individuals have stepped forward as advocates, educators and champions for those affected by the virus. Among these remarkable figures, Black activists have played a pivotal role in raising awareness, fighting stigma and pushing for greater access to treatment and support.
It’s been more than 40 years since the first cases of what became known as AIDS was officially reported. Over these last few decades, much work has been done in advocacy, healthcare innovation, and education to help more people prevent and treat an HIV+ diagnosis and live a better quality of life if they are HIV+. Despite those promising inroads, the stigma associated with being HIV+ impacts those affected. The belief that only certain groups of people can get infected, being morally judged for taking steps to prevent HIV transmission, and other stigmas create mental and emotional issues for those living with HIV.
Keep reading and scroll down to find a list of influential Black HIV/AIDS activists who have made a lasting impact.
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