According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 HIV Surveillance Report, African-Americans represent 41 percent of new HIV diagnoses yet comprise only 12 percent of the U.S. population. In 2018, an article in Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities offered a five-point “action plan” for community leaders to address and reduce that disparity.
Be Immersive: Although the authors don’t go as far as suggesting all efforts must arise from black communities, they do note the need for work to be done in collaboration with those communities, and for answers to these challenges to be culturally relevant to African-Americans. (Pointing to an “unavailability of access to HIV healthcare and testing,” the researchers also call for “free or reduced-cost testing.”)
Be Nonjudgmental: The authors call for leaders and service providers to work to eliminate prejudices and unconscious biases that may interfere with HIV diagnoses and treatment. After all, they point out, some of the most-impacted populations are those who face stigma, including LGBTQ people, drug users, and those currently or formerly incarcerated. In particular, the researchers call out “cultural HIV/AIDS stigma” and “homo-negativity.”
Be Knowledgeable: The authors stress the importance of understanding “new approaches” to prevention and treatment—clearly referencing the recent consensus that undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U, which shows that once an HIV-positive person in treatment reaches viral suppression they are no longer at risk of transmitting the virus to a partner), and explicitly mentioning the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as a highly effective barrier to transmission.
Be an Advocate: The authors want community leaders to become more vocal in calling attention to the epidemic and its impact on the black community. But that’s just the beginning. The action plan notes that much larger social issues must also be addressed in order to “eradicate secondary factors such as incarceration rates, poverty, STDs, and other factors that increase the chances of contracting HIV.” Essentially, they are calling for intersectional activism.
Be Innovative: The plan says to be “proactive and create solutions that evolve with the times and the changing needs of the affected populations.” Certainly, that includes new technologies and treatments, but the authors also point to innovative programs such as Many Men, Many Voices (3MV), aimed at black men who have sex with men who may or may not identify as gay or bi, in which small groups talk about cultural, social, and religious norms; sexual relationship dynamics; and how racism and homophobia influence HIV risk behaviors.