Feb. 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

African Americans Are Encouraged to Learn, Get Tested and Treated

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb 4, 2011) – The 11th annual observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is Monday, Feb. 7 – a time to recognize the disproportionately heavy toll the HIV epidemic has taken on Black/African-Americans.

"HIV/AIDS continues to be a major health concern, especially for African Americans, who account for almost half of all new HIV diagnoses, though they make up less than 15 percent of the state's population," said State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H.

"The only way to continue to make progress against the epidemic is for all of us in government and the community to work together to promote awareness, HIV testing, and access to treatment."

Progress is being made to prevent HIV infection; the overall number of new diagnoses among Blacks/African-Americans in New York State dropped by 29 percent in six years, from 2,744 in 2003 to 1,949 in 2009. However, efforts must continue to address the disproportionate burden on Black/African-American New Yorkers. Data for 2009 show that:

  • Blacks/African-Americans are 10 times more likely to be newly diagnosed with HIV than Whites, with 67.6 new diagnoses per 100,000 people as compared with 6.6 per 100,000 for Whites.
  • Hispanics are also more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than Whites, with 37.7 newly diagnosed cases per 100,000 people.
  • New York also continues to see too many new diagnoses among young men age 13-24, with most of them reporting having had sex with men and more than half (53 percent) Black/African-American.

"While we are encouraged that our prevention programs are having a positive impact in the fight against HIV, we will continue to promote prevention among Black/African-American New Yorkers to reduce these disparities," Commissioner Shah said. "A new law requiring that all New Yorkers between the ages of 13 and 64 who seeks hospital treatment or primary care be offered an HIV test will help our prevention efforts. I urge everyone to accept the offer of an HIV test. It's the only way to identify people with HIV and ensure they receive medical care to treat their illness and make it less likely they will transmit HIV to anyone else."

"Observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on our successes and to recommit ourselves to the challenges that remain," said Humberto Cruz, Director of New York State Health Department's AIDS Institute. "That the number of new diagnoses continues to fall is great news, but we still have more than 55,000 Black/African-Americans in New York State who are living with HIV/AIDS. To a great extent, our ability to stem new infections will be determined by how well we provide treatment and support to those who have already been diagnosed."