Based on 2010 statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that even though blacks only comprise about 13 percent of the United States’ population, they account for an estimated 44 percent of the individuals 13 and older diagnosed with HIV — the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.
“There is no question that HIV among the African-American population is really at a crisis level,” said Lola Thomas, executive director for the AIDS Alliance of Northwest Georgia. “Statistics show that it is a huge problem that we all need to be concerned about.
“... For African-Americans in general to know that they are at higher risk of becoming infected is very important for them so that they know to become educated to do everything they can to prevent becoming infected,” she said, adding primarily adults contract the HIV virus through unprotected sex and the sharing of needles or sharp objects. “And then getting tested, so that if they do become infected they realize it and can get into appropriate treatment. [According to AIDSVu.org], the rate of black males living with HIV infection in Georgia is 5.2 times that of white males and that the rate of black females living with an HIV diagnosis is 12.2 times that of white females.”
Initially observed in 1999, the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day’s 2014 theme is “I Am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper. Fight HIV/AIDS!”
According to www.nationalblackaidsday.org, “National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) is an HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative for Blacks in the United States and across the Diaspora. There are four specific focal points: Get Educated, Get Tested, Get Involved, and Get Treated. ... Testing is at the core of this initiative and is critical for prevention of HIV in Black communities. It is hoped that Blacks will mark February 7 of every year as their annual or bi-annual day to get tested for HIV. This is vital for those who are sexually active and those at high risk of contracting HIV.”
Formed in 1992, the AIDS Alliance assists about 110 HIV/AIDS clients in 10 northwest Georgia counties. Along with offering HIV/AIDS education and prevention, the Cartersville-based nonprofit also provides services to its clients, such as a housing program and transportation to doctors’ appointments.
At its office — 1 Friendship Plaza, on the third floor of Cartersville’s Train Depot — the AIDS Alliance administers free oral HIV tests on a walk-in basis each Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. During the anonymous test, a swab is rubbed on a person’s top and bottom gums, then placed into a solution that measures HIV enzymes. Results are available in 20 minutes and pre- and post-counseling also are provided.
For more information about the AIDS Alliance’s offerings, call 770-606-0953.