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AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts Marks February 7 National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day With HIV Testing

Black populations continue to experience higher rates of HIV

Last Updated: February 7, 2012
Media Contact: Susan Ryan-Vollmar – sryan@aac.org | 617.999.5644

BOSTON, February 7, 2012—Today is the 12th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a national HIV testing and treatment initiative aimed at Blacks in the United States. Organized by a coalition of groups that provide assistance to Black communities impacted by HIV and AIDS, the day is devoted to education, testing, involvement, and treatment.

AIDS Action Committee will mark the day with HIV testing at The MALE Center in the South End from noon to 8 p.m. All testing is free and results are provided immediately after being tested.

“African Americans and other black populations are disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS. There are approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, and nearly half of them (545,000) are Black even though Black Americans represent only 12 percent of the U.S. population,” said Rebecca Haag, President & CEO of AIDS Action Committee. “That disparity among infections also exists in Massachusetts, where Blacks make up only six percent of the state population, but comprise 29 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS.”

AIDS Action currently provides services to one-in-six people in Massachusetts living with a diagnosis of HIV, and 40 percent of the agency’s clients are Black. Since 1999, working with our partners around the state, AIDS Action has helped reduce new HIV diagnoses in Massachusetts by 54%, which has meant that 5,699 people who might otherwise have become HIV positive have remained negative, and more than $2 billion in health care costs will be saved. AIDS Action has done this by targeting those populations most vulnerable to HIV infection, including US and non-US born Black women, and Black gay and bisexual men.

AIDS Action provides outreach, education, and prevention services to Black men and women vulnerable to HIV in three ways:

The MALE Center

Gay and bisexual men are at least 44 times more likely to contract HIV than the general population. Between 2006 and 2009 (the last year for which statistics are available), young Black gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 29 accounted for more than one-quarter (27 percent) of all new HIV infections nationally. This program of AIDS Action promotes the well being of gay and bi men by offering rapid HIV testing (with 800 tests conducted last year), sex life coaching, distribution of prevention and safer sex materials in bars and nightclubs (with 40,000 prevention messages and 80,000 condoms distributed last year), a weekly support group focused on healthy living, assistance with seeking employment, AA meetings, a monthly book club, and movie nights.

The MALE Center reaches out to Black gay and bisexual men, with “Queer Colors,” a program where gay and bisexual men of color share strategies and solutions that others have used successfully to be more open about their HIV status with their families, church communities, and friends. The MALE Center also offers outreach in prevention for young gay and bisexual men of color with “We’re Still Here,” a public events program focused on raising public awareness about HIV among Black gay and bisexual men and identifying needed community-level changes. To date, four “We’re Still Here” community forums have been held that attracted nearly 100 participants who ranged from elected officials to community members to health care providers.

Women’s Health Disparities Project

HIV/AIDS is the third leading cause of death for Black women in the U.S. between 35 and 44 years of age. The Women’s Health Disparities Project is a unique collaboration between Massachusetts General Hospital and AIDS Action that trains Black women with HIV who have excellent self-care skills to help newly diagnosed Black women navigate the health care system, as well as Black women who have fallen out of care. This program, which is in its second year, has increased positive health outcomes for both the peer leaders and those learning to independently access health care.

Bayard Rustin Breakfast

For 21 years, AIDS Action has hosted the Bayard Rustin Breakfast, a community event that annually brings together nearly 500 Black community members infected or affected with HIV. Named for Bayard Rustin, one of the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement who was gay, the Breakfast celebrates those who have shown uncommon courage in fighting HIV/AIDS in communities of color. This year’s Bayard Rustin Breakfast will take place Saturday, April 14, 2012.

AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts is the state’s leading provider of prevention and wellness services for people vulnerable to HIV infection. It provides services to one in six people in Massachusetts living with an HIV diagnosis. These services include HIV counseling and testing; needle exchange; mental health counseling; housing assistance; and legal services. AIDS Action works to prevent new HIV infections, support those affected by HIV, and tackle the root causes of HIV/AIDS by educating the public and health professionals about HIV prevention and care; and advocating for fair and effective HIV/AIDS policy at the city, state, and federal levels. Founded in 1983, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts is New England’s first and largest AIDS service organization. In 2013, AIDS Action formed a strategic alliance with Fenway Health that will allow the two organizations to work more closely together and improve delivery of care and services to people living with HIV/AIDS. Learn more at www.aac.org.

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