A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that Americans' sense of urgency about HIV/AIDS has fallen dramatically, providing some insights into the AIDS epidemic in Black America.
"This report, on the heels of last month's report by the D.C. office of AIDS showing a 4 percent HIV prevalence among Black residents in Washington D.C. provides some context for the AIDS epidemic in Black America," says Phill Wilson, CEO of the Black AIDS Institute.
Last August, the Institute released a report finding that if Black America were a country on to itself, it would have the 16th largest epidemic in the world. "Many indicators of urgency and concern are moving in the wrong direction, including for higher risk groups," says Drew Altman, president and CEO Kaiser Family Foundation.
"There is good news and not so good news in this survey," says Wilson. "Fortunately, most of the not so good news we already knew and are working on. For example, while the percentage of Black Americans who have seen or read "a lot" or "some" about HIV/AIDS has declined, the decline is not as great as the decline in other groups.
This is a tribute to the amazing job Black media is doing of keeping HIV/AIDS on the radar in Black communities. Unfortunately it also speaks to the fact that 58 percent of Black Americans know someone who is living with HIV/AIDS-38 percent of those they know are a family member or close friend.
Key findings of the survey include:
Black Americans believe we are not spending enough on the domestic AIDS epidemic and spending matters.
68 percent of Black Americans believe the federal government is spending too little on the domestic AIDS epidemic and 57 percent believe the federal government is spending too little on the domestic AIDS epidemic compared to other diseases.
Two thirds of Black Americans believe spending more on prevention and treatment would make meaningful progress toward ending the AIDS epidemic.
While there has been a decline in the sense of urgency about HIV nationwide, the sense of urgency in Black America remains high.
65 percent of Black Americans feel AIDS is as urgent as or more urgent in Black communities today than it was a few years ago.
34 percent of Black Americans believe we are losing ground in the fight against AIDS.
51 percent of Black Americans are very or somewhat worried that they will become HIV positive, and 80 percent are worried that one of their children will get infected.
Among Black Americans, aged 18 - 29, 40 percent are very or somewhat concerned about getting infected with HIV.
Black Americans are changing their behavior.
67 percent of Black Americans have spoken to a doctor about HIV, and 68 percent have spoken to a partner.
68 percent of Black Americans report having taken an HIV test compared to 57 percent Hispanics/Latinos, and 42 percent of whites.
47 percent of Black Americans aged 18-29 have been tested in the last 12 months.
The Kaiser survey confirms what many Black AIDS activists have been saying for a while: We have a long way to go toward ending the AIDS epidemic in Black communities, but the stage has been set.
Black people are responding to the AIDS epidemic more than ever before. If you take the Kaiser findings and combined them with lessons learned from the latest D.C. surveillance report, you have a road map-create a mass Black mobilization focused on:
Increasing HIV testing
Increasing utilization of treatment
Increasing condom usage
Increase HIV knowledge
Decreasing concurrent relationships
This new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation is an important piece of the information puzzle needed to end the domestic AIDS epidemic. It illustrates how complex the HIV/AIDS epidemic is, especially in Black communities. It also helps us better understand where we need to focus our energies.
With a new commitment from the Obama Administration, and new energy in Black communities, the time is right to see significant changes in the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic in Black America.
The Black AIDS Institute is the only national HIV/AIDS think tank in the United States focused exclusively on Black people. The Institute offers training and capacity building, disseminates information, interprets and recommends both private and public sector HIV/AIDS policy, and provides advocacy and mobilization from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view.