Take charge of your health today. Be informed. Be involved….HIV/AIDS

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EB: The numbers of HIV-infected African Americans is staggering. It indicates to me that we need to continue working hard to raise awareness about the disease, encourage HIV testing and promote prevention. It’s critical for people to get tested for HIV and receive good medical care if they are HIV-positive. Being diagnosed with HIV today isn’t the same as it was 30 years ago. The medications work so well that HIV can be managed and people infected with the virus can lead long lives. However, preventing infection in the first place is essential. We want to make sure that everyone is safe.

JGB: Prevention is a critical issue. What types of prevention programs work for African American populations?

EB: The Girlfriend Project covered in this month’s segment is amazing. A program designed by African American women for African American women is definitely the right approach. Using social gatherings as a place to share HIV education and to provide HIV testing makes a lot of sense. It’s clear from the results of Dr. Hawk’s research that it works.

JGB: I absolutely agree. The approach of Dr. Friedman’s work highlighted on this page, Project Silk, also addresses people’s whole lives and tries to find ways to improve their situations while providing HIV prevention. Much of my own research focuses on figuring out the puzzle that is HIV/AIDS among African American women. I’ve found that violence within relationships is strongly related to a woman’s ability to use condoms to prevent HIV and to her ability to get tested for HIV and receive treatment. Ultimately, the interventions that are going to work best are those that really address the needs of the population, right?

EB: I couldn’t agree more. That’s what we try to do at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. By building links between services—including HIV testing and counseling—and working with and in communities, we should hopefully be able to reduce the number of African Americans who are HIV-infected. I strongly believe that we can lower that statistic here in Allegheny County.

JGB: Thank you again for your time, Esther. Enjoy the holiday season, and we’ll talk to you next month when we focus on eye and vision health. If anyone has questions about the “Take Charge of Your Health Today” pages, contact Community PARTners at ­partners@hs.pitt.edu.

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