BUFFALO, N.Y. — Feb. 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Founded in 1999, the observance sheds light on the disproportionate rates of African Americans living with the virus and disease.
Communities of color are often most lacking in resources and education necessary for promoting healthy living, especially those who also belong to the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to raising awareness of inequities in these communities, the day also helps dispel myths about the virus.
What You Need To Know
- Feb. 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which highlights disproportionalities in diagnoses and treatment among African American communities
- STD and STI rates have heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic due to health care resources being re-designated to fight the coronavirus
- African Americans, especially those within the LGBTQ+ community, are at greater risk of contracting HIV
- Founded in 2021, Upstate New York Black & Latino Pride serves as a network to help connect communities with education and resources
“The first step to that is destigmatizing,” said Upstate New York Black & Latino Pride founder Tajé Jones. “So it’s disassociating the idea of HIV having a look to it or having a specific demographic that it’s going to kind of attach itself to. Because what happens is, it’s an STI that is contracted by anyone and can be contracted by anyone.”
COVID-19 has not only highlighted social and racial disparities in health care, but it has contributed to some of these inequities. This is especially true for those at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and infections, in which rates have increased locally over the past few years. In large part, this is due to health care facilities refocusing the attention on coronavirus, though isolation has also contributed to loss of networks and support groups.
“STI rates have skyrocketed in Erie County,” Upstate Black & Latino Pride communications manager Alexandre Burgos said. “And part of the reason is because community building is a piece that has sort of been put on halt. So many organizations that maybe offered drop-in services or have on-site events, in-person outreach — those have been suspended because of the pandemic.”
Upstate New York Black and Latino Pride, an initiative founded in 2021, seeks to bridge the gap between the community and the health services needed most.
“The idea behind it is to unify Upstate and Western New York,” Jones said. “So right now we are working to build something in Buffalo and in Niagara County, eventually that kind of sets a standard for our Upstate counterparts so that we can really connect the communities.”
In the ongoing epidemic against HIV and AIDS, having a support system is essential.
“I think the hardest thing for people to do is to say that they need help or to even acknowledge that they need help,” Burgos said. “But it’s so important that when people come to that realization, that they know that they’re not alone.”