Elected officials, faith leaders, and community advocates gathered at the North Carolina State Capitol on February 7th at 5 PM for I Am My Brother/Sister’s Keeper, a vigil for Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Speakers spoke about the importance of addressing the HIV disparities in the African-American community and the need to close the Medicaid coverage gap in North Carolina. “We need to make the African-American community more aware about HIV,” said Reverend Earl Johnson of Saint Martin Baptist Church. “Rates are increasing, and we must educate the community about HIV treatment and prevention.”
Former Wake County Superior Court Judge Abraham Jones delivered prepared remarks on behalf of State Representative Rosa Gill, stating “If North Carolina would close the Medicaid coverage gap, hundreds of HIV+ North Carolinians would have access to full health insurance. Closing the Medicaid coverage gap would provide health insurance to over half a million North Carolinians. A study done by the Cone Health Foundation and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust found that closing the gap would generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, and would have created 29,000 jobs in our state in 2015, including over 3,000 here in Wake County.”
The event was sponsored by the Alliance of AIDS Services – Carolina, Crape Myrtle Festival, LGBT Center of Raleigh, Martin Street Baptist Church, North Carolina AIDS Action Network, North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina NAACP, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, and Triangle Empowerment Center, Inc.
February 7, 2016 marked the 16th year for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), a national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative targeted at Blacks in the United States and the Diaspora. NBHAAD was founded in 1999 as a national response to the growing HIV and AIDS epidemic in African American communities. The national theme this year is “I am my Brother/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS.”
The HIV and AIDS epidemic is a significant public health challenge in North Carolina. Currently, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services estimates that there are 36,300 people living with HIV in the state. Like the rest of the south, the epidemic is also defined by significant disparities based on race. According to the 2013 (most recent) North Carolina HIV/STD State Epidemiologic Profile:
Among the newly diagnosed adult/adolescent HIV infections, Black/African American males had the highest rate at 92.3 per 100,000 adult/adolescent population, which is nearly nine times higher than that for White/Caucasians (12.0 per 100,000 adult/adolescent population). For females, the highest rate by race/ethnicity was also among Black/African Americans females (24.7 per 100,000) adult/adolescent population.