For Immediate Release
April 20, 2009
Contact Information

National Center for HIV/AIDS,
Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention

Commentary by Dr. Kevin Fenton: Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Black Leaders Join Obama Administration in Tackling U.S. HIV Crisis

(BLACK PR WIRE) (April 20, 2009) At a recent White House event, the Obama administration took a major step in confronting HIV, a health threat that affects African-Americans more than any other racial or ethnic group. At that event in early April, I had the honor of joining administration officials and some of the nation’s most influential African-American leaders to announce Act Against AIDS – a new five-year campaign to refocus the nation’s attention on the HIV crisis right here in the United States.

The first phase of the Act Against AIDS communication campaign will highlight the fact that every 9 1/2 minutes someone in the United States becomes infected with HIV. That statistic is based on CDC estimates released last year, which found that approximately 56,000 Americans become newly infected with HIV annually – and that nearly half of them are black. The harsh reality is that one in 16 black men and one in 30 black women will be diagnosed with HIV at some point in their lifetime.

In America, in 2009, HIV and AIDS should not be taking such a toll.

If we are going to drive this deadly, but preventable, disease out of our communities and our lives, it will require all of us to be involved – civic groups, elected officials, government agencies, businesses, churches, universities, labor groups, and more.

So to help get the message out to every corner of black communities, CDC has launched a new partnership with 14 of the nation’s leading African-American civic organizations – from the NAACP and the Urban League to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Council of Negro Women.

The new Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative will harness the collective strength and reach of these organizations to increase HIV knowledge, awareness, and action within black communities across the country.

While many of these institutions have longstanding commitments to addressing HIV among African-Americans, the leadership initiative will enhance their ability to make HIV prevention a core component of their daily activities. CDC is providing $10 million over the next five years to enable each of these organizations to support an HIV coordinator. These individuals will work through their organizations’ membership networks to disseminate Act Against AIDS campaign materials, deliver critical information about HIV, and help people access HIV prevention and testing services.

By raising the visibility of HIV and AIDS, Act Against AIDS also aims to confront and overcome the stigma that helps keep HIV alive in black communities. We need to talk openly about tough issues like homophobia and discrimination that prevent too many African-Americans from seeking HIV testing and treatment, and support from their friends and family.

I was encouraged that Dr. Dorothy Height—a civil rights pioneer, chair of the National Council of Negro Women, and one of the most respected leaders of our time—addressed stigma head-on when she spoke at the White House event.

“We need to be able to talk about HIV as we talk about jobs, as we talk about housing, as we talk about civil rights,“ Dr. Height said. “We all have a responsibility to break the silence about this disease – to speak out about HIV, to know that our families and friends and churches are there to support us. And if someone talks to us about HIV, to listen, to learn, and to accept and help if we are called upon.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Ending this epidemic will require not only frank discussions about HIV, but a shared sense of responsibility and commitment. All of us can and must be part of the solution.

For more information about the first phase of this campaign and HIV, visit