Ending HIV/Aids Pandemic in African American communities

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[HIV/Aids Awareness]

Last week, in his State of the Union address, President Obama shared that one of his proudest possessions is the flag that the Navy SEALS took with them when they killed Osama Bin Ladin.

The President talked about how proud he was of the young men who participated in that mission and how important it was for them to be singularly focused on the mission. In those types of situations, the young men and women of the armed forces know that the mission is the only thing that matters. There's no thought about how they are different—who's Black or White, who's straight or gay, who's a Republican or Democrat, or whatever other issues may separate them. The only thing that matters is the mission.

The president talked about just how powerful that is. During these difficult times, this is a lesson that might serve all of us well.

Next week is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The Black AIDS Institute will be releasing our 8th annual State of AIDS in Black America Report.  It will highlight a reality that would have been unthinkable not long ago.  We are at a deciding moment in the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic; we now possess the tools we need to end the AIDS epidemic.

With recent scientific breakthroughs the question is no longer "Can we end the AIDS epidemic?"  The question is "Will we?" It is time for bold and radical thinking about HIV testing, treatment and prevention. The report will lay out our strategy for ending the AIDS epidemic in Black America.

While we face opportunities and challenges, it's time for all of us to come together for the common good of our community. It doesn’t matter whether you are gay or straight, male or female; live in an urban center or the rural south, whether you're a leader or someone who relishes anonymity. Our mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in Black America.

Next week is the perfect time for us to follow the SEALS' example and to be of one mind. Here are five things that we can do as Black Americans to move the needle forward toward ending the epidemic in our communities.

1) Get tested or take someone you love to get tested.  Click here to find a testing facility near you.

2) Encourage a friend who has HIV or AIDS to seek care and treatment. Breakthrough research now proves that treatment is also prevention. For not only do anti-AIDS medications extend the life of the person living with the HIV virus, they reduce the likelihood that they will infect their sex partner.

3) Contact your federal, state and local elected officials to let them know that you value not only the Affordability Care Act, whose individual mandate is presently before the Supreme Court, but Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—all of which will be major points of contention during the campaign season and over the coming year.

4) Have a conversation with a young person about the importance of using condoms each and every time they have sex. Just this past week, the CDC released data showing that 55 percent of Black teen moms were not using birth control at the time they became pregnant. Almost one-third reported that they thought they couldn't get pregnant. But our teens don't just need to be using contraception to protect themselves from an unintended pregnancy; clearly they need to understand how you get pregnant; and they specifically need to be using condoms to protect themselves from HIV and other STDs, which are at epidemic proportions among Black youth.

5) Protect yourself. We may talk a good game, but it's also important for adults to practice what we preach.

Yours in the struggle.

Wilson is founder and executive director, The Black AIDS Institute  The Black AIDS Institute

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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