Disproportionate Impact of HIV Epidemic Rooted in Structural Racism

This Sunday is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
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Photo: CDC

This Sunday is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day – a day that may not get the attention of World AIDS Day, but one that is equally important.

On this day, we call attention to the fact that the HIV epidemic is far from over, and that we must refocus our work and our hearts on the communities who continue to bear the brunt of this virus: Black and Latinx gay and bi+ men and transgender women.

The statistics – and the health inequities they represent – are staggering. The CDC predicts one in four Latinx gay and bisexual cisgender men and one in two Black gay and bisexual cisgender men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. Trans people of color are also disproportionately impacted. Twenty-six percent of Latinx transgender women and almost half of Black transgender women in the United States are living with HIV today.

The disproportionate impact of the HIV epidemic is directly rooted in structural racism and anti-Blackness.

When we look at communities disproportionately impacted by HIV, poverty is the number one variable. The other social and structural determinants of health include lack of access to health coverage, culturally competent care, adequate educational and employment opportunities and a lack of access to fair and safe housing. These factors are directly correlated to overall poor health outcomes for people of color – specifically Black and Brown communities.

My charge for all of us, including those who work with me at the Human Rights Campaign, is to ensure we are investing in the communities most impacted to increase access to health care, prevention, testing, and treatment. And that we are recognizing that racial justice is not a necessary corollary of our mission to end the HIV epidemic but as integral to achieving it.

The challenges we face in this moment are grave, but I find grounding and inspiration in the leaders who came before us. When he was first offered a position to run Us Helping Us, Dr. Simmons wrote, “I am convinced that this is the work I was destined for. And there may be more work to do.”

By Alphonso David

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