Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) and Representative Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) held an event to recognize Feb. 7, 2019 as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in Pennsylvania.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day started as a grassroots effort with hundreds of organizations. This year marks the 19th year for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, an initiative targeting blacks to get tested in the hope of putting an end to the disease. Sen. Hughes has introduced a resolution to designate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the Senate.
“The data is clear and informs us that this is still a major problem in the black community,” said Sen. Hughes, a longtime advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. “Blacks make up 12 percent of the population but account for 44 percent of the HIV diagnoses. We have to continue to raise awareness and find solutions to this ongoing epidemic because of its disproportionate impact and because we care about the health and wellbeing of our brothers and sisters.”
Rep. Wheatley will also introduce a similar resolution recognizing Feb. 7, 2019 as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in Pennsylvania in the House.
“We like to think that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is over, that this problem has been solved,” Wheatley said. “But unfortunately, that isn’t true. Far too many Americans are still living with HIV/AIDS, and a disproportional number of them being African American. HIV/AIDS can be prevented, it can be treated, but only as long as people get themselves educated and get themselves tested.”
The need to raise awareness is real. At the end of 2014, there were an estimated 470,000 African Americans living with HIV — and one in six of those didn’t know it.
Hughes and Wheatley were joined at the awareness event by Dr. Loren Robinson from the Pennsylvania Department of Health; Jeannine Patterson, CEO of the Hamilton Health Center in Harrisburg; and Julia Och of AIDS Free Pittsburgh.
As part of his campaign to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in the community, Wheatley also hosted free HIV/AIDS screenings at the Pennsylvania Capitol on Tuesday.
Pennsylvanians can also receive information on confidential testing by calling the state HIV/AIDS hotline at (800) 662-6080 or the Pennsylvania Department of Health at (717) 783-0572.