December 1 marks World AIDS Day and the beginning of HIV Awareness Month.
On the first day of the 12th month each year, people across the globe observe World AIDS Day, uniting in the fight against HIV, showing support for people living with the disease, and remembering those who have died from an HIV-related cause. Approximately 37.6 million people live with HIV worldwide, and approximately 1.2 million live in the U.S. Among those living with HIV, Black people have the highest infection rates in the nation, accounting for over 42% of those living and dying with HIV and AIDS in America.
While this deadly epidemic continues to affect the entire world, it has hit especially hard in the Black community. According to the CDC’s 2019 reporting, 40% of people living with HIV in the U.S. are Black, despite making up only 13% of the U.S. population. With several factors playing into the disproportionate impact of HIV among Black Americans (racism, systemic inequities, etc.), it is especially crucial for us to take action.
The most impacted are gay and bisexual men, followed by heterosexual women, with the lifetime risk of HIV diagnosis among Black women being 1 in 48 vs. 1 in 880 in white women.
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.
As much as it is a day for taking action, World AIDS Day is also a day of remembering and celebrating the impact of those who we have lost along the way. Since first coming into the public conscience in the 1980s, a number of notable Black trailblazers have died from the epidemic. However, their spirit and impact will last forever.
Keep reading and scroll down through our gallery below to honor, remember and pay homage those we lost to HIV/AIDS.
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