Innovative approaches to HIV/AIDS testing

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(Part two of a two-part series.)

(NNPA)—“One size does not fit all,” said Phill Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the Black AIDS Institute. While organizations across the country will commemorate National HIV Testing Day on June 27, the Black AIDS Institute, the only national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black people, is urging that efforts don’t stop there.

“Annual awareness days are very important, but everyday is HIV testing day at the Black AIDS Institute. A single strategy or silver bullet is not going to end the AIDS epidemic in our communities,” said Wilson.

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Black America is 12 percent of the U.S. population but makes up half of all new HIV infections. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 20 percent of those infected don’t know they have the disease. According to the Institute, the number of Black people who don’t know their HIV status is much higher.

“We start with the data,” said Charlie Baran, director of programs at the Institute. The Institute publishes an annual report on the “State of AIDS In Black America” that provides an overview of the latest epidemiological data and an analysis of current HIV/AIDS issues and breaking news in Black communities.

According to Loretta Johnson, director of health for the Dallas Urban League, the Greater Dallas and North Central Texas Chapter of the Urban League, saw an increase of awareness about HIV when it collaborated on an event with the Magic Johnson Foundation, the NBA, and the Institute during the 2010 NBA All-Star weekend. Johnson is further encouraged about future testing efforts. “We’re excited about Test 1 Million and getting people to know their status,” she says.

Cooperation from the media is one of the most important factors in ensuring that the message about HIV’s testing gets out. Greater Than AIDS, developed by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Black AIDS Institute, is the first national social marketing campaign focused on HIV in Black communities. It includes a sustained commitment among major U.S. media companies to work together to address the AIDS crisis facing Black Americans. The partnership is part of Act Against AIDS, a broader communications response by the U.S. CDC to refocus attention on the domestic epidemic. It has received the support of such media outlets as the National Newspaper Publisher’s Association, Essence communications, MTV, Clear Channel Radio and American Urban Radio Networks.

“The mission of the Black AIDS Institute embodies what the Greater Than AIDS movement is all about,” said Tina Hoff, vice president and director of Entertainment Media Partnerships for the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Communities coming together to end HIV/AIDS, and that begins by getting tested and knowing your status.”

“I know we are going to end the AIDS epidemic in our communities,” said Wilson. “We don’t have a choice. And we are going to do it by developing innovative programs that use indigenous Black culture. There are around nearly 40 million Black people in this country. We are determined to reach every one of them with messages that speak directly to them.

“Our motto is ‘Our people, Our problem, Our solutions.’ I think that says it all.”

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