On Wednesday, millions of Americans will observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to promote HIV testing and community mobilization against the disease that continues to spread in communities across the globe.
This will be the 18th year the day will be observed by the community.
In Jacksonville, there will be free testing, giveaways and refreshments served at the Clara White Mission, 613 Ashley St., from 9 a.m. to noon and Edward Waters College Student Union Building, 1658 Kings Road, from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m.
HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a disease that attacks the human body’s immune system and if left untreated, HIV can progress to AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS can allow for greater infections and cancers to take over the body, leading to death.
HIV/AIDS is generally transmitted sexually or exchanging of bodily fluids such as blood and semen. Transmission can also occur through intravenous drug use and other non-sexual transmission methods.
The illnesses can be prevented, but there are methods of treating the disease if you are diagnosed as HIV positive.
First Coast Statistics on HIV/AIDS
Data obtained from the Florida Department of Health’s HIV Epidemiology study shows that the black population is significantly more affected by HIV/AIDS than white, Hispanic and other races or ethnicities in the First Coast area.
The study also states the populations the department is most concerned about are heterosexual black men and women, followed by black men who have sex with men (MSM).
The ratio of black males to white males with HIV cases in 2016 is 6.2 to 1. For black females to white females, it’s 8.3 to 1.
That data collected on the First Coast is compiled into a term called Area 4, which includes Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns Counties.
As for the statistics, the number of newly diagnosed cases of HIV in Area 4 has increased faster than the population.
The population in Area 4 increased by 2 percent from 2015 to 2016 in Area 4, but the new cases of HIV increased by 6.1 percent in the same time period. To break that number down into more comprehensible numbers, Area 4 had 311 new cases of HIV in 2015 and 330 new cases of HIV in 2016.
There are 7,119 people who are living with HIV in Area 4 as of 2016, a 3 percent increase from 2015.
The number of newly diagnosed AIDS cases decreased from 187 to 179 from 2015 to 2016, or 4.3 percent.
The Florida Department of Health lists the following factors that have contributed to health disparities related to HIV diagnosis:
-Access to/acceptance of care
-Delayed prevention messages
-Prevalence of HIV and non-HIV STDs in the community
-Prevalence of injection drug use
-Immigrants from outside the U.S.