World AIDS Day 2011: get informed, get tested

World AIDS Day 2011 presents us with a challenge, and an opportunity.

The challenge is to confront the issues of complacency and ignorance that have helped make Black Americans the most vulnerable population when it comes to HIV/AIDS in the U.S. That means talking about HIV, and how to prevent it; in our homes, in our schools, and yes, in our churches. Speaking up, and taking action: that’s the opportunity.

On December 1st, the Urban League of Greater Miami will commemorate World AIDS Day with our annual youth summit, held each year at the Joseph Caleb Center in conjunction with Miami-Dade Public Schools. Each year, more than 800 middle and high schools students from more than half a dozen Miami-Dade schools gather at the Caleb center for a full day of HIV-AIDS education. The youth summit takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and includes dramatic presentations, critical information from HIV/AIDS educators, and take-home materials that help students understand how to be safe, and how to speak up.

According to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • In 2009, black men accounted for 70% of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks. The estimated rate of new HIV infection for black men was more than six and a half times as high as that of white men, and two and a half times as high as that of Latino men or black women.
  • In 2009, black men who have sex with men (MSM)1 represented an estimated 73% of new infections among all black men, and 37% among all MSM. More new HIV infections occurred among young black MSM (aged 13–29) than any other age and racial group of MSM. In addition, new HIV infections among young black MSM increased by 48% from 2006–2009.
  • In 2009, black women accounted for 30% of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks. Most (85%) black women with HIV acquired HIV through heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.
  • And according to the Miami Dade Health Department, Zone IV, which includes Liberty City, El Portal, Miami Shores and the surrounding neighborhoods, and which is predominantly Black American and Haitian-American, contains the highest concentration of people living with HIV and AIDS, compared to all other zones in Miami-Dade County. (See data here.)

    Clearly, it’s time for the Black community to take action.

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