February 7th: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Upon my daily scroll through blogs this morning I came across a feature on Black Voices Wellness personally sent in by HIV/AIDS activist  Hydeia Broadbent. Some of you may remember Hydeia’s name as she was often appearing on radio and television shows as early as 12 years old, promoting safe sex and education on the HIV/AIDS disease. But Broadbent didn’t contract the disease through promiscuous acts or drug use; she was born HIV positive to a drug addicted mother, and diagnosed at the age of four with the disease. For over a decade Broadbent has been a teen age and young adult activist, speaking out on the dangers of HIV.

Broadbent who is now 26 years old  has faced many physical and mental challenges in living with HIV but she’s remained strong in her fight for people to protect themselves and be aware of the risks. Today on many websites Hydeia’s message about today’s significance was posted, she noted that:

  “Yes, we have our own day during Black History Month. While people never think they are at risk for contracting HIV, that it’s above them, that it is a dirty person’s disease, or is only contracted by those who are gay, I am here to tell you that anyone who is negative is at risk for contracting HIV if they don’t educate themselves on the disease.
America has become very complacent when it comes to AIDS. We think AIDS is only a problem in third world countries. However, the total number of people living with an HIV infection in the U.S. is thought to be around 1.1 million, and of the more than 1 million people living with HIV in the United States of America today, around half are black.” (Via BlackVoicesWellness)

The first AIDS case reported and thus beginning the epidemic was  in 1981 in Los Angeles. The first strain of HIV is reported have entered the United States around 1969  and has since spread throughout the world. As of this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that African-Americans while making up only 13% of the overall population, are nearly half of the new cases of HIV each year. That means 1 in every 16 black men, and 1 in 30 for black women. In 2006 HIV was the ninth leading cause of blacks and the third leading cause of death for both black men and women aging  35-44.

African-Americans continue to be the leading numbers in cases for STD’s as well, which subsequently causes a higher risk factor in contracting HIV. So what can we do?

EDUCATE EDUCATE EDUCATE. The number one way to prevent HIV/AIDS is not to protect yourself- it is to educate yourself and others. That’s where it starts. If we’re educated and educating those around us we can thus protect ourselves.

Although Broadbent has recently dealt with a change in medications because of brain damage she’s recovered well and continues to be a warrior in her fight.

When it comes to HIV we are all on an equal playing field; this disease does not discriminate.

The H in HIV stands for human.” -Hydeia Broadbent

To learn your status on HIV and find a testing site near you text your zip code to 566948 (KNOWIT) or visit HIVtest.org

(Photo credit GettyImagesEntertainment, Dario Cantatore)

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