To mark National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), River Region Human Services has scheduled three free HIV testing events in Jacksonville on Feb. 7. Celebrated nationally, the initiative is designed to encourage blacks across the United States and Territorial Areas to get educated, get tested, get involved, and get treated around HIV/AIDS.
River Region will offer Rapid HIV Tests from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. at the Walgreens locations at 3604 Blanding Boulevard (corner of Wilson and Blanding) and 5108 Norwood Avenue. Rapid HIV Tests provide results within 15 minutes.
HIV/AIDS is especially devastating for the black community, which experiences much higher infection rates than other U.S. populations. While blacks represent approximately 14% of the U.S. population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the group accounts for 44% of the nation’s new HIV infections. In Duval County, nearly 7,000 individuals have been diagnosed with AIDS and 64% of those diagnosed are black, compared to 49% statewide. In St. Johns County, 44% of those diagnosed with AIDS are black, followed by 29% in Clay County, 43% in Nassau County and 51% in Baker County. (Source: Florida Health AIDS Surveillance Report, Area 4, December 2013.)
Unfortunately, many of those who are infected with HIV are unaware of their status and may unknowingly transmit the virus to others. Infection rates are higher in urban centers compared with rural areas, and River Region has a program focused on testing and educating minority populations about HIV/AIDS prevention. Testing and education are critical components of the River Region program.
Several black celebrities and community leaders have served as the face and voice of this national effort while encouraging thousands of Black communities to mobilize and do something that will be long-lasting in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Past spokespersons include: President Barack H. Obama (during his time as Illinois Senator), Congressman Elijah E. Cummings; Tony Dungy; Idris Elba; Kimberly Elise; Lance Gross; Hill Harper; Taraji P. Henson; Tom Joyner; Congresswoman Barbara Lee; Chris Bridges (aka Ludacris); Percy Miller (aka Master P); Tangi Miller; Patrik-Ian Polk; General Colin Powell; Sheryl Lee Ralph; Gloria Reuben; Romeo; Rev. Edwin Sanders; Tavis Smiley; and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Currently, NBHAAD is directed, planned and organized by a group known as the Strategic Leadership Committee who partners with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to mobilize communities and address specific issues in regards to local epidemics. For more information on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, visit: www.NationalBlackAIDSDay.org.