Obama BFF and White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett remembered National Black HIV/AIDS Day yesterday. I’m proud of her for doing so — it’s a recognition of the special needs of our community. Here’s some facts on how hard we’re getting hit:

To date, over 230,000 African Americans have died of AIDS – nearly 40% of total deaths – and of the more than 1 million people living with HIV in the United States of America today, around half are black.1 And yet, as a racial group, African Americans represent just 13% of the US population.2 The estimated lifetime risk of becoming infected with HIV is 1 in 16 for black males, and 1 in 30 for black females, a far higher risk than for white males (1 in 104) and white females (1 in 588).3 In Washington D.C, which has the nation’s highest district HIV prevalence (3%), three-quarters of those infected with HIV are African American. 4

Why us? It’s not clear but part of the problem in undoubtedly lower access to quality healthcare, education and means of prevention in black communities, particularly for the poor. This rough sitch is one of the reasons that healthcare reform has been so desperately needed in the U.S. and why we should fight hard to block efforts to dismantle it.

HIV and AIDS is also a pandemic in many African countries. The Obamas heroically led in having an HIV test to de-stigmatize testing in Kenya while visiting Africa. That was back when he was still a Senator. Sub-Saharan Africa has 10% of the world’s population and 60% of the world’s HIV carriers. Southern Africa has been hit the worst with adult prevalence rates exceeding 20% in most countries in the region.

I’d like to give a special shoutout to Michael Blake of the White House Office of Public Engagement. He’s a theGrio 100 honoree this year and is one of the “stars” of the must-see documentary By The People: The Election of Barack Obama.

Not long after joining the White House team, Michael generously wrote a post for National HIV testing day here at JJP as one of our first guest bloggers. Much thanks to the White House for their leadership. It may just save lives.

What Ms Jarrett (if you’re nasty) wants you to know:

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness is not just a day to increase awareness, but a day to act on your own health.

  • Do you know your status? If not, text your zipcode to 566948 (“KNOWIT”) to find and HIV testing site near you or go to HIVtest.org.
  • You can also call 1-800-CDC-INFORMATION for more information and testing sites in your area.
  • Visit www.aids.gov for Federal resources, events in your area and tools to commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Share this info at church or post it up on the bulletin board at church. Tweet it, Facebook it, email it, blog it. It just might save someone’s life somewhere.

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