How this week can prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in African-American communities

The annual National Week of Prayer for the Healing of HIV/AIDS is March 3 – 9, 2019. AIDS is an epidemic in the United States and this week brings awareness to the issue, while calling for support from faith-based organizations. Community health workers provide free HIV/AIDS screenings and educational lectures throughout the week to inform people of the virus and how they can prevent it from spreading.

Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash

Cherri Brunson, Human Services Program Specialist at Hertford County Public Health Authority, says:

“The AIDS epidemic has transitioned from a Caucasian homosexual male disease to an African-American heterosexual female disease. This shift took place in only 30 years! I think this week is very important for the black community because, most of the time, when you think of the African American community, you think of faith – African-American people and faith go together. The faith is a sounding board for these communities. When people do not talk about this virus freely, it isn’t prevented. What the black community needs is for faith leaders to talk about how this virus is affecting the African-American community. It allows the people to be more aware of the disease and it helps to de-stigmatize it.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four new cases of HIV infection in the U.S. occurs in young people between the ages of 13-24. Four out of five new infections in youth occur in males. Statimetric’s website reported that in 2017, 0.61 percent of the population in Hertford County, North Carolina, tested positive for HIV.

Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash

What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. According to the National Institutes of Health’s website, when a person encounters this virus, it attacks the white blood cells that are used to fight off infections. A low number of white blood cells in the body could cause illnesses like the common cold and a sinus infection to be fatal. HIV could progress into AIDS when not treated. A person has AIDS when his or her CD4 cells that are used to fight off infections falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood, federal health agencies report.

How is it spread?

  • Unprotected sex (oral, vaginal and anal) with someone who is HIV-positive

  • Sharing needles that have been used by someone infected with the virus

  • Transferred to a fetus from a mother with the virus

  • Contact with the blood of someone who is HIV positive.

Do I have any symptoms?

Symptoms include:

  • Swollen Glands

  • Weight loss

  • Night sweats

  • Flu-like symptoms

How can I get tested?

  • Ask your doctor to test you for the virus

  • Visit the local health clinic

  • Find a mobile testing site during the NWPHA.

Brunson concludes, “It is a chronic disease now and not a terminal illness, however, there are a lot of life changes that will occur when one is HIV-positive.” Education is the key to dismiss the negative stigma about HIV/AIDS in order to prevent the spread of HIV in African-American communities.

References:

Cdc. (2018, February 21). What Are HIV and AIDS? Retrieved from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-AIDS/what-are-hiv-and-AIDS

HIV/AIDS | HIV | HIV Symptoms | AIDS. (2019, January 10). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/hivAIDS.html