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HIV CBA - Black Lives Matter

Why Black Lives Matter in HIV/AIDS

By Carlos Torres, Prevention Trainer

A one-of-a-kind event is taking place in Tucson, Arizona this week, the Black Life Matters conference. Organized by the University of Arizona, this event has been designed to help the ongoing conversation about Black lives, and not as a beginning, an end, or the ‘last word.’ For many who are community organizers, social justice activists and advocates, and for the rest of us who support the idea of equal access to culturally relevant and appropriate services this conversation is not new, particularly for those who work in the fields of HIV/AIDS care and prevention. For far too many years, actually decades, statistics, and the data have revealed how this epidemic has disproportionately impacted and affected black lives in our country. The pressing question now is how are the lives of black people who are living and dying with HIV and AIDS included in the current discourse?

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is far from over, which means the work is far from over. The conversations about black lives that are currently taking place all over our country are essential to the wellbeing of our communities. It is important to encourage everyone to contribute whatever they are able to enhance those conversations and help them move forward in meaningful ways. However, remember to ask, and if necessary demand, to be included in the conversations. The advances in HIV care and prevention are promising. The effectiveness of current treatment protocols are helping people live longer, productive lives. The approval of Truvada® as a prevention tool has revolutionized prevention strategies and its future. Nonetheless, we cannot forget about those individuals who do not have access to these treatment and prevention options. We cannot forget the stigma, and the discrimination, and the internalized shame, and the individuals with mental health issues who continue to be marginalized. We cannot forget about the estimated 56,000 new HIV infections each year in our country, especially with 44% among African Americans adults and adolescents.1

We have known that black lives matter for a long time. This is not a new conversation for us. What is new is the emphasis that media, elected officials, poets, artists, institutions of higher learning, public figures, athletes and others have placed on this topic. It is our job to join the conversation and continue to bring attention to the health and social inequalities that continue to exist in access to appropriate prevention messages, and life saving treatments.

1 CDC. Estimated HIV incidence among adults and adolescents in the United States, 2007–2010. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2012;17(4).

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