Five things every African American should know about HIV/AIDS in 2016

June 2, 2016

african medical doctors with red ribbon

Yes, it’s 2016 – nearly 35 years since the first cases of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. But, the sexually transmitted disease is just as dangerous today as it was years ago.
More than 37 million people were living with HIV by the end of 2014, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And since the early 1980s, about 39 million people have died from infection across the world.
Here are some things to keep in mind about the disease:
Who is more at risk?
Black men just can’t catch a break. According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 1 in 20 black men will contract HIV in their lifetime. That’s compared to 1 in 132 white men.
Black people have to be careful in general, though. We are the most at risk to catch HIV than any other racial group.
The dirty south
Sorry, southerners. You are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than anyone else in the U.S., the CDC reports. Poverty and lack of access to healthcare are a couple of the reasons why this is so.
Washington D.C. ranks the highest on the prevalence list, followed by Maryland, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana.

Gay or straight?
Unfortunately, 1 in 6 men who have sex with men (MSM) will become infected with HIV in their lifetime, according to the CDC. Also, half of black men and a quarter of Latino men who engage in sex with men are more at risk for the virus, as well.
Getting tested
There are options. You don’t have to visit a doctor to get tested these days. You can also take an at-home test. Fourth-generation blood tests can detect the virus within days to weeks after exposure. Make sure you find a test site near you, or ask your physician about at-home tests.

Treatment guidelines
Today, new WHO guidelines state people diagnosed with HIV should take antiretroviral therapy medication as soon as possible. It’s not a cure, but it can stop the virus from multiplying and transmission through sex. It can also prevent the virus from developing into AIDS.

If you fear that you may have been exposed to HIV, don’t hesitate to seek help from your physician. The best way to practice safe sex is through abstinence, but condoms are another great way to protect yourself.