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February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

February 7, 2016

HIV is still a taboo subject to discuss and a widely misunderstood disease. HIV, which used to be a death sentence, is now a chronic, manageable disease. Medicine has considerably improved since the initial development of AZT, an HIV antiretroviral medication. With proper medications, treatment, and support services, individuals living with HIV can go on to live long, healthy lives, including giving birth.

However, those living with HIV continue to endure increased stigma, making it difficult to discuss their status with family, friends, and even medical providers. For Black women and men living with HIV, this stigma is compounded by negative racial stereotypes that often go hand-in-hand with this disease. [1, 2] African Americans account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population, yet represent more than 40 percent of new HIV infections. [3]

February 7th is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and this year’s theme is “I am my brother’s and sister’s keeper. Fight HIV/AIDS!” While this theme strives to decrease stigma and encourage community accountability, it does not take into account personal safety or concerns for victims of domestic violence. For individuals also experiencing intimate partner violence, talking about their status can be dangerous; often resulting in increased violence or even death. Nearly one in four women reported experiencing physical abuse after disclosing their status [4] and more than half of women living with HIV experience intimate partner violence. [5] While we agree that the fight against HIV/AIDS is everyone’s responsibility, this year’s theme does not take into consideration individuals that cannot discuss their status.

Learn more about how the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is working to bring together the HIV/AIDS and domestic violence fields through our Positively Safe program.

[1] Naughton, J., Vanable, P. 2013. HIV Stigmatization Among Healthcare Providers: Review of the Evidence and Implications for HIV Care.

[2] Rao, D., et al. 2013. Internalized Stigma Among African Americans Living with HIV: Preliminary Scale Development Based on Qualitative Data.

[3] Center for Disease Control & Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/PDF/stats_basics_factsheet.pdf

[4] Rothenberg, et al. 1995. The risk of domestic violence and women with HIV infection: implications for partner notification, public policy, and the law.

[5] Machtinger et al. (2012a). Psychological trauma and PTSD in HIV-positive women: A meta-analysis. AIDS and Behavior 16(8), 2091-2100.