The NBJC Blog

Taking the Lead: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

This year marks the 13th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day  (NBHAAD), an HIV/AIDS testing and treatment community mobilization effort designed to encourage African Americans to get educated, get tested, get treated, and get involved with HIV/AIDS. In observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) highlights the importance of fostering Black LGBT leadership at the forefront of our fight against the epidemic, especially that of Black LGBT youth and Black transgender women.

"The domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to show disparities among MSM [men who have sex with men] especially impacting our young Black MSM,"explains Christopher Chauncey Watson, Clinical Research Site Coordinator at The George Washington University Public Health Research Clinic. "Our efforts to be engaged as young Black gay men who are current leaders are not only required, but a necessity to address the paradigm shift."

Nearly six percent of Black gay and bisexual men under age 30 are newly infected with HIV every year in the United States, three times the rate among white gay men in the United States. Reports indicate that while the number of new infections in the U.S. is relatively stable, HIV is on the rise in young people under 25.
"For many of my Black gay friends, being HIV positive is 'the new normal,'" says Rodney K. Nickens Jr., NBJC Policy and Networks Associate. "As we continue to make strides in our community to reduce all health disparities and increase access to affordable care, it is especially important that we make room at the table for Black LGBT emerging voices to enter the dialogue and broaden the conversation so that we are not continuing the same counter-productive conversations year after year."

Black LGBT Emerging Leaders play a critical role in raising awareness and reducing stigma around HIV/AIDS. Not only is their perspective a critical one in shaping policies, their active involvement is essential to help grow the leadership pipeline necessary to sustain a vibrant, impactful equality movement.

That is why NBJC is pleased to host the 2013 Black LGBT Emerging Leaders Day in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. On February 21-22, Black LGBT students, activists, and community organizers, ages 18-30, will participate in a policy briefing at the White House, hear about President Obama's commitment to equal rights for all Americans and the important steps his Administration has taken to ensure health, well-being, and equality for Black LGBT Americans as it relates to young adults, including HIV/AIDS.

"It is great to have an interdisciplinary approach to addressing the epidemic as it relates to MSM of color," adds George Washington University Public Health Research Clinic's Christopher Chauncey Watson. "This forum is not only a great venue to engage national and local stakeholders, but also acknowledges support from the current administration to address this epidemic at all levels."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, among transgender persons, the highest percentage of newly identified HIV infection was among African Americans (4.4%). In New York City alone, from 2005-2009, there were 206 new diagnoses of HIV infection among transgender people, 95% of which were among transgender women. Approximately 90% of transgender people newly diagnosed with HIV infection were Black or Hispanic.

These startling statistics and the continued need to acquire accurate information among all people at risk for HIV infection make it resoundingly clear that Black transgender women must be part of the decision-making processes about HIV-related policies and programs.

"We have made remarkable strides in our society around treatment of HIV/AIDS," adds NBJC's Rodney K. Nickens Jr. "However there is more work to be done. We can't do this work if Black LGBT young people and our trans sisters aren't part of creating the solutions."