National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

I had planned to incorporate a recognition of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day into last Sunday’s service. On this day, observed annually on February 7, we celebrate progress in HIV prevention among African-American people and highlight the work being done to reduce HIV stigma and increase HIV testing, prevention, and treatment in the Black community

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, so I am calling the observance to your attention a few days late. However, the work to prevent HIV infection in the African-American community continues year-round, and I’d like to share with you a few things I’ve learned.

As in so many areas of life, health reveals disparities among people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds in the US. The CDC reports that we are making progress in health equity:

In 2019, African-American people (13% of the US population) suffered 41% of estimated new HIV infections. One population in which the annual number of HIV infections is decreasing, however, is in African-American gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24. This may indicate partial success of focused HIV prevention, testing, and treatment efforts, and tell us what kinds of outreach are effective so that we can duplicate them.

and that further progress will probably result if we address other forms of racial inequality:

Data clearly indicates that the broader factors of social vulnerability, such as poverty, lack of access to transportation, and crowded housing, are correlated with HIV incidence. A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report used one measure of these social and structural factors, the CDC/ATSDR Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), and determined that African American people in areas with a higher SVI score (i.e., greater social vulnerability) were more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than those in areas with a lower SVI score (i.e., less social vulnerability). While correlation is only a pointer, not proof of causation, it suggests that increased HIV may be due to limited access to HIV prevention and care services, transportation services, lower income, HIV stigma, racism, and discrimination. In other words, reducing the longstanding disparities and inequities that affect African-Americans would likely expand and strengthen HIV prevention.

So, friends, there are several ways we can help reduce HIV and AIDS in this disproportionately-affected part of our community:

  1. Reduce the stigma of being LGBTQIA+ and welcome LGBTQIA+ people as vital participants in UUCPA and the wider community. If this appeals to you, please say yes when invited into an Appreciative Inquiry conversation by the Welcoming Congregation team (or join the team!).
  2. Dismantle the structures of racism by which white supremacy still infiltrates our society. If this appeals to you, come to a session of White Folks Dismantling White Supremacy (people of all backgrounds welcome!)–or sign up for Beloved Conversations–Virtual, which you heard about in last Sunday’s service (the deadline is soon!).
  3. Alleviate the effects of poverty. If this appeals to you, join in our ministries of Hotel de Zink, Heart and Home, the Safe Parking Program, and support for Stevenson House: watch the UUCPA Weekly Update for these opportunities as they arise.
  4. For people of color: connect with other UUs of color for mutual support, rest and renewal, learning, and leadership development. This page on the UUCPA website has information about and links to Taproot, BLUU (Black Lives of Unitarian Universalists, DRUUMM (Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries)

In love and for a better world,