By Floyd Alvin Galloway
Like with a number of diseases, HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects the Black community. And it doesn’t have to be.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Preven-tion, Blacks account for a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses, those living with HIV, and those ever diagnosed with AIDS, compared to other races/ethnicities. In 2015, African Americans accounted for 45% of HIV diagnoses, though they comprise 12% of the US population.
The rate of Black women diagnosis with HIV/AIDS has increased at an alarming rate, having passed that of Black men. Of children under the age of 13 diagnosed with HIV, 65% are Black.
These horrific statistics ignited a fire in former Phoenix news anchor Kim Covington to do something. Previously unaware of the impact on the Black community, Covington, Arizona Community Founda-tion senior director of community initiative, she asked herself, “what can I do “ to stop the epidemic in the Black community. That burning with action the effort culminated in bring several community leaders and organizations together to find solutions in fighting the disease.
One step in the fight against the disease is awareness and prevention. Those two steps were highlighted during a special program, March 1, at the Herberger Theatre in downtown Phoenix to hear testimonies of the disease effects and launch a continued battle against the HIV/AIDS.
Twenty one individuals, international, national and local advocates including community leaders, faith-based leaders, survivors, artists, medical experts, and more delivered messages of hope, information about testing and linkage to care, and mobilize the community into action. Some, like Phoenix Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, Miasia Pasha and others shared how the disease impacted their lives.
Phoenix Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, told the story of his older brother, how looked up to his brother, but his died from HIV/AIDS. The stigma of the disease in a Hispanic family made the subject taboo, like in the Black community. Pasha, a local advocate and 20-plus year HIV survivor, shared the story of she contacted the disease from a husband that was on the “down-low.”
R&B singer, relating the story of developing a friendship with a Phoenician while here a few years ago for an engagement speaking to a youth group about music, later discover her friend diead of the disease.
On-site mobile testing will be offered at the A resource fair with several organizations working to end the devastation of HIV/AIDS in metro-Phoenix and the state, were on hand to provide critical information about resources, health centers, testing and treatment, and prevention methods. An on-site mobile testing unit was also part of the form.
According to Covington, the goals and objectives of the community form were met. “The goals of the Arizona Community Foundation’s Black Philanthropy Initiative was to convene and collaborate to address the widespread HIV epidemic in the Black community. We did that. The amount of collaboration and support was groundbreaking,” said Covington.
“We collaborated with 12 nonprofits and civic organizations to put this sensitive topic on a large platform. It was quite strategic. From our monthly meetings, a town hall of community leaders was formed and from that town hall we developed the Because We Care Forum with nearly 20 international, national, state, and local speakers including influential pastors…who worked to reduce stigma, shame and guilt and move an audience of 700 to get tested and seek care. It was an extraordinary start.”
According to the CDC, a number of challenges contribute to the higher rates of HIV infection among African Americans. The greater number of people living with HIV (prevalence) in African American communities and the fact that African Americans tend to have sex with partners of the same race/ethnicity mean that African Americans face a greater risk of HIV infection with each new sexual encounter.
The poverty rate is higher among African Americans than other racial/ethnic groups. The socioeconomic issues associated with poverty—including limited access to high-quality health care, housing, and HIV prevention education—directly and indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection and affect the health of people living with and at risk for HIV. These factors may explain why African Americans have worse outcomes on the HIV continuum of care, including lower rates of linkage to care and viral suppression. Stigma, fear, discrimination, and homophobia may also place many African Americans at higher risk for HIV.
Covington noted the outreach and mobilization continues, with most of the members of the form’s steering committee were asked to serve in the United Nations Fast Track Cities initiative. The Phoenix initiative goal is to end HIV by 2030.
“ACF’s Black Philanthropy Initiative has also established a Because We Care HIV Prevention Fund to allow us to award grants to nonprofits working to improve HIV prevention,” stated Covington. For more information and to join the movement, you can visit, www.azfoundation.org/BecauseWeCare.