BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is Feb. 7. Initially observed in 1999, the 2014 theme is “I Am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper. Fight HIV/AIDS!”
The day has been set aside by activists as an awareness campaign for the Black community, which has historically shown a higher percentage of HIV/AIDS infection rates in comparison to other ethnicities.
In recognition of Black History Month and National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness, a local organization, Rising Against All Odds, will provide an educational and inspirational message through songs and presentations featuring the Positive Champion Speakers Bureau, NAACP and the Volusia County Health Department.
Grim local stats
According to the local health department, there are more than 1,400 people who have HIV or AIDS in Volusia and Flagler counties.
Based on 2010 statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that even though Blacks only comprise 13 percent of the United States’ population, they account for an estimated 44 percent of the individuals 13 and older diagnosed with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.
Volusia County Health Department data shows that in Florida, for newly reported adult HIV infection cases in 2013, the case rate among Black men was four times higher than the rate among White men and the case rate among Black women was 15 times higher than the rate among White women.
Among adults, one in every 40 Black men and one in every 61 Black women were living with HIV disease in 2012 compared to one in every 192 White men and one in every 1,092 White women.
Statistics show that of 47,756 Blacks living with a diagnosis of HIV through 2012, 77 percent were U.S. born, 15 percent were Haitian-born, 2 percent were born in Jamaica, 4 percent were born elsewhere, and the country of birth was unknown for 2 percent.
For 22 consecutive years (1988-2010), HIV has been the leading cause of death for Blacks between the ages of 25 and 44 in Florida. In 2012, HIV dropped to the fourth leading cause of death among Blacks. HIV was also the leading cause of death among Black women 25-44, but dropped to second since 2010.
The local program centered on “It Takes A Village’’ will take place Feb. 15 at St. Joseph United Methodist Church, 530 E Voorhis Ave., in DeLand from 3 to 7 p.m.
The Rev. John T. Long, III, senior pastor of Tubman-King Community Church in Daytona Beach, will be a guest speaker.
Additionally a free rapid test for HIV will be held Feb. 14 at the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County, 1845 Holsonback Drive from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Contact the health department at 386-274-0634 for more information.