By Eugene L Green, senior director of strategic partnerships
Today marks World AIDS Day, a reminder of the enduring battle against the virus. Observed annually on December 1st since 1988, it’s also a day to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and remember those who have died of the disease.
As shared previously by our team, more than 700,000 people have died from HIV-related illnesses in the United States since the AIDS epidemic started, as many as 40.4 million have died around the world, and roughly 39 million people globally were living with HIV in 2022. The impact of the disease also highlights prevalent health disparities. In the United States, HIV and AIDS disproportionately impact Black and Hispanic/Latino communities, who combined, represent roughly one-third of the total US population. As of 2019, Black Americans account for 41% of new infections, and Latino/Hispanic Americans 29% of new infections.
In February, I was able to speak with The Healthy Project about the unique public health challenges faced by the Black community on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and a key point of our discussion explained how racism expounds the existing stigma for the disease. When an illness becomes seen as a “Black people problem,” racism and bias threaten to lessen the importance of treating individuals properly and fairly. Additional concerns faced by the community include limited access, financial barriers, and a historically justified lack of trust in providers, all of which can prevent or hinder Black individuals living with HIV from seeking or receiving treatment.
As I’ve shared earlier, when we consider our collective responsibility and opportunity to dismantle the stigma surrounding the virus – there’s nothing more powerful than hope. Hope comes from education, awareness, and the bravery of individuals who can support and lead their community by example. It’s in this spirit that our team created Vital Voices to showcase real, first-person stories to educate, inspire, and connect with diverse audiences. One of the most compelling series focuses on instilling this hope for HIV-positive individuals – Living well with HIV: Treatment, adherence, and support, a conversation about treatment, equity, and access to care, where BIPOC Americans share their experiences living with HIV.
While there’s much more to be done, I’m proud to say that this Vital Voices HIV video series recently won a Gold Digital Health Award from the Health Information Resource Center – and I’m grateful to see my team recognized for their efforts to reach diverse populations with solutions mindfully created to engage, educate, and activate them to better understand the conditions impacting their lives and take meaningful actions towards improving their health and well-being.