This is a guest viewpoint from Executive Director of AIDS Services Coalition Kathy Garner
Feb.7th is National Black HIV Awareness Day. In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, it was thought to be a white gay male disease. As more and more people became infected, it was clear that HIV did not discriminate against sexuality, gender, and, yes, race. Black Mississippians are disproportionately affected by HIV. Though blacks only account for 37% of the total state population, they make up 80% of new infections. Also, Mississippi is ranked 1st in the United States for the rate of new infection for people aged 13-24. I could go on and on. These statistics are frightening… but the scariest one of all is that 1 in 6 people who is living with HIV is unaware of his or her status. That one in six is responsible for over 50% of the new infections. What can you do? Avoid risky behavior, get educated. Have an HIV test and take a friend. There is no good excuse NOT to get tested. We at the AIDS Services Coalition test, SEMRHI tests, each health department tests… all free of charge. If you are HIV+, link to healthcare, stay in care and protect others and yourself by being healthy and safe.
For this awareness day, we will be providing testing and going to the streets to provide accurate information about HIV to our community. Do your part too. Thank you.