Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks and weakens the body’s immune system. Often spreading from one person to the next through sexual contact, sharing needles or from mother to child. HIV continues to impact individuals and communities across the country and around the world. While we have made significant advances in health care, especially in the area of HIV care and treatment, there are still huge disparities, when it comes to people of color.
Black and Brown people continue to experience the greatest impacts and face the greatest inequalities, when it comes to HIV care and treatment. According to the Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), when looking at the lifetime risk of HIV: 1 in 2 Black men who have sex with men, 1 in 4 Latinomen who have sex with men, and 1 in 11 white men who have sex with men in the United States will be diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus in their lifetime. Further demonstrating the huge disparities, when it comes to men who have sex with men of color.
Similarly: 1 in 20 Black straight men compared to 1 in 132 White straight men will get HIV in their lifetime and 1 in 48 Black straight women compared to 1 in 880 White straight women will get HIV in their lifetime. The disparities among those groups are alarming and more needs to be done in order to combat HIV.
Moving beyond the data, there are more underlining issues that are more prevalent and are factors that continue to put Black and Brown people at an increased risk for contracting Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
However, public health entities must do more to address health inequalities and improve health equity among people of color. To reduce or eliminate HIV in Black and Brown communities, There must be more opportunities and access for testing, as well as linkage the care and treatment. There must be more access to biomedical prevention such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is a pill you take daily to prevent HIV and post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) which is a pill that is take for 28 days, but initiated within 72 hours of an exposure to HIV. HIV prevention education must be provided in a way that is non-judgmental, neutral, and engaging.
HIV services must be comprehensive, culturally sensitive and providers (doctors, nurses, and staff) must be culturally competent. Public health entities must continue to develop, implement and enhance existing strategies in a more meaningful way. Only then, there will be a reduction and or elimination of Human Immunodeficiency Virus in communities of color.
Richardo Jackson is a Public Health Practitioner and Director of Prevention and Community Engagements at Monarch Health Services, Inc. Partnering with individuals and communities to address the social determinants of health and improving health equity.