National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day draws awareness to the African American community which is disproportionately affected by the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that while African Americans make up 14 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 50 percent of all diagnosed HIV cases. That’s up 4 percent from two years ago. According to the CDC report, HIV diagnosis among black men is eight times that of whites. Among black women, it is 19 times that of whites.
Community health workers in Philadelphia say the city’s statistics mirror this national trend. They have taken their message of prevention and protection to neighborhood churches.
“We started with churches because we know that they have an excellent partnership with people in the community. They’re there every week. It’s a captive audience and they’re really interested in how they can take better care of themselves,” says Molly McKendry with Temple University. McKendry says the weak economy inspired collaborations such as these.
Adonis Banegas, a program coordinator with Circle of Care, says that convincing churches to participate in these outreach campaigns wasn’t easy.
“We’ve been able to identify some progressive religious leaders in the Christian community who understand the epidemic and understand that people live everyday lives and within that sometimes make mistakes,” he says.
Banegas and McKendry hope the information will drive church-goers to take advantage of free HIV testing at locations throughout Philadelphia today.