On this, the 12th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I remember my sister-in-law’s fight with the disease. Tragically, she did not win that fight – she left behind a devastated husband and five-year old daughter. But it is in her memory, and the memory of all the friends and loved ones we have lost, that we vow to keep working toward the day when HIV/AIDS is history.
This past December, on World AIDS Day, President Obama spoke about the United States’ commitment to ending HIV/AIDS. In a speech at George Washington University, he told the audience, “Make no mistake, we are going to win this fight. But the fight is not over … not by a long shot.”
Sadly, this is especially true in the African-American community. Black Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, but they account for 44 percent of new HIV infections. Among young black gay men alone, infections have increased by nearly 50 percent in just three years, and black women account for the largest share of HIV infections among women. We each must do our part by getting tested regularly, and by educating those in our community about what they can do to help end the epidemic.
President Obama is committed to doing his part as well. In 2010, he released the nation’s first comprehensive HIV/AIDS plan. Together with Secretary Clinton, he has helped assemble a coalition of governments, healthcare professionals, and service providers. They have set a goal that would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago: an AIDS-free generation, in which virtually all children are born HIV-free, and prevention tools help them stay HIV-free throughout their lives.