Maryland urges testing on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
State utilizing 5-year plan for prevention, care services; builds on collaborations
Baltimore, MD (February 6, 2017) – Tuesday is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Prevention and Health Promotion Administration is encouraging all Marylanders to support HIV education, prevention, testing and care.
“The NBHAAD theme, ‘I Am My Brother and Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS!’ must be heard throughout Maryland,” said Jeffrey Hitt, director of the department’s Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau. “This is an important day to observe because African-Americans in Maryland are disproportionately impacted by HIV.”
As the department implements a new five-year HIV response plan, we are committed to the goals that Maryland will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and that, when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.
A major strategy for implementing the new five-year plan involves education and sexual health promotion. The bureau has taken specific steps to initiate and increase opportunities for the community and providers to strengthen and sustain community capacity to understand HIV science, prevention and treatment issues, as well as to advocate for the treatment and care needs of communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS. One important step has been to collaborate with the nationally recognized Black AIDS Institute to establish a statewide Black Treatment Advocates Network chapter to conduct community and provider education and training with diverse audiences throughout the state.
The Bureau’s close relationship with the Department’s Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities has provided opportunities to raise the urgency and awareness of HIV among community groups that haven’t previously focused on HIV and has facilitated a public health agenda where health equity is at the forefront of both program discussions and program implementation.
These activities are designed to comprehensively educate on individual, social, and health care systems. These partnerships will enable the department to better address health disparities in HIV, which are created or exacerbated by complex social and structural determinants of health.
The Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, in an effort to address HIV/AIDS disparities in Maryland, collaborated with the Center for HIV/AIDS and Health Services in State Fiscal Year 2016 to fund 12 community-based organizations in six jurisdictions to conduct education and outreach activities that address HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, and other STDS in minority, medically underserved communities. Each organization was awarded $7,500 to develop and to implement activities centered on enhancing the knowledge of the community and on providing linkage to resources.
“This effort between Minority Health and Health Disparities and the Center for HIV/AIDS and Health Services serves as an example of successful collaboration to engage the minority and medically underserved communities most at need for these services,” said Minority Health Director Dr. Shalewa Noel-Thomas.
Funded organizations conducted outreach and education activities that observed the national HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and STD awareness days. The organizations held workshops and health fairs that educated minorities and the underserved about HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and STDs. The organizations also made referrals to resources for counseling, testing and other support services and cultural and faith-based events that brought awareness and that addressed stigma in their local communities.
“Because of the many co-occurring issues, it is important to employ a multi-level approach to HIV prevention and care that extends beyond an individual’s risk behaviors,” Hitt said. “In 2017, we are emphasizing that people with HIV are more than statistics; we are focusing on information and strategies that address people and their lived experiences.”