Nationally, February is most commonly known as Black History Month. But there is one day African Americans need to be aware of. February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS awareness day, this year’s theme is, “I am my Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper.”
According to AIDS.gov, more than 1.2 million people in the United States have human immunodeficiency virus and 1 in 8 people do not know it.
Florida A&M University brought light to this situation by providing free HIV/AIDS testing to students. FAMU provides HIV/AIDS testing to students year round, but February 7 called for a more direct approach. A truck was set up at the heart of FAMU’s campus, the set, all day to encourage students to come inside, get tested and know their status. With just a prick on the finger, students received results in minutes.
FAMU alumni and program director for Neighborhood Medical Center, Mathias Sweet was there to be “his brother’s keeper,” and test students.
“It’s great to see African Americans coming out trying to help other African American men and women to know their status,” said Sweet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, African Americans made up only 12 percent of the United States population, but were 45 percent of new HIV diagnosis. African Americans are not getting tested so they do not know their status.
Eboni Ingram, a junior Bio pre Dentistry student knows the high rate of HIV/AIDS among African Americans and realizes African Americans need to get tested. “We should get tested as black people because it runs high on our side,” said Ingram.
For people between the ages of 20 to 29, finding out you have HIV/AIDS can be a hard pill to swallow. Young adults in this age group have the highest percentage of HIV/AIDS diagnosis according to AIDS.gov.
“I feel like people are scared to find out the results. Everyone thinks it could never be me and it could be you, people don’t want to hear bad news so they don’t get tested,” said Ingram.
Among people between the ages of 13 and 24, approximately 51 percent of people are living with HIV/AIDS and are unaware.
Although the number of new cases of HIV/AIDS has decreased in the US population, it has increased in gay and bisexual African American men. They account for the highest number of HIV diagnosis followed by caucasian gay and bisexual men.
“The only thing we can do is educate, educate and educate people to get tested, whether you are having sex or not having sex,” said Sweet.
For more information about HIV/AIDS or if you would like to get tested you can visit the local health departments.