Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

National Black Hiv/Aids Awareness Day

Rep. Edolphus Towns

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and I rise to highlight the struggle of the African American community against this terrible disease. The theme for this year is ``I am My Brother's/Sister's Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS''. HIV is a crisis in the Black Community and has been for thirty years.

African Americans are disproportionately affected by this disease. According to the CDC, an estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV infection at some point in their lifetimes; and an African American woman is 15 times more likely to be living with HIV than a white woman of the same age. The CDC also notes that in 2007, HIV was the ninth leading cause of death for all blacks and the third leading cause of death for black women and black men aged

Today, the New York Health Department announced that new HIV data shows a 41% drop in deaths among black persons living with HIV/AIDS in New York between 2001 and 2010. Though this is promising new information, the black community is still disproportionately affected by this disease. More than 107,000 New Yorkers are living with HIV, but thousands more don't know they're infected. New York City's AIDS case rate is almost 3 times the U.S. national average. Brooklyn alone has the highest population of any borough in New York City and has one of the highest HIV infection rates among Black and Latina women in the country. According to a Brooklyn based research institution, in 2008 nearly 30% of people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City, who died, were Brooklyn residents.

African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed late in the course of HIV infection, less likely to be connected with care and less likely to be prescribed the necessary preventative and life preserving anti-retroviral medications. Blacks are also most likely to die from HIV-related causes.

These are sobering statistics, but they offer us the opportunity to spread awareness and take action to provide the community with the help they need. The Affordable Care Act, which I fully supported, is a fantastic opportunity to provide assistance to African Americans as well as others suffering from this disease. It stops providers from denying coverage to HIV positive children and adults as well as providing increased access to Medicaid and other prescription assistance programs. However, until this act is fully implemented, we must work hard and work together to educate and provide access to care for those who need it most.

We cannot let the black community continue to bear the most severe burden of all racial groups. We must stand together to support the community and take action against the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. We must ensure our youth receive comprehensive education about the disease to help prevent infections in future generations. Until we put an end to AIDS, we must remain united to achieve the common goal of prevention and treatment for all.