Throughout my medical and public health career, I have been involved in the care and education of individuals with HIV/AIDS. As Baltimore’s health commissioner, I am ultimately responsible for the ongoing public health emergency that HIV/AIDS presents.
You are likely familiar with the statistics:
- In 2008, 243 Baltimore residents died of AIDS.
- The Baltimore-Towson Metropolitan area has the fifth highest AIDS case report rate in the nation, with 29.6 cases per 100,000 residents.
- There were 932 new HIV diagnoses in Baltimore City in 2008.
- The disease continues to disproportionately affect African Americans, who made up 86 percent of new diagnoses in Baltimore City in 2008
- In fact, 1 in 9 African American men between the ages of 40 and 49 years of age residing in Baltimore City has an HIV diagnosis. And that’s just men with a known positive status.
These statistics illustrate why today’s commemoration of the 11th Annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is so important. The Baltimore City Health Department is joining the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, national African-American organizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other state and local public health agencies’ efforts to address the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS epidemic in African-American communities.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has had a devastating impact on the African-American community. In Maryland, as of the end of 2009, 1-in-54 African-American men and 1-in-97 African-American females were living with HIV/AIDS. The CDC estimates that nationally, 1-in-16 African-American men and 1-in-30 African-American women will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime.
Knowing how long we have been battling this epidemic, those numbers are quite disheartening. That is why it is so important that we continue our work to combat the spread of this disease.
This is truly an exciting time to be working on HIV issues. The emergence of a National HIV/AIDS Strategy has ushered in a new era of prevention and care planning. Here in Baltimore, we are developing a citywide prevention plan in collaboration with the Mayor’s Commission on HIV/AIDS. We are also partnering on statewide efforts to combat the disease. Baltimore has a tremendously positive and forward-thinking community of people working hard every day to get more people tested for HIV, to eliminate discrimination and stigma, and to improve linkages to quality care and services.
We must never give up on our efforts to reduce HIV and AIDS in the city. We each have a responsibility in reducing the spread of AIDS – and there is something each of us can do. Know your status. Get tested on a regular basis. This is fundamental to preventing the spread of HIV to others and to beginning treatment early.
The city Health Department is offering free, confidential HIV testing today from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Pennsylvania Avenue, and from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the intersection of Cold Spring Lane and Park Heights Avenue in Park Heights.
For information about HIV education, testing, treatment and support services, please call 410-767-5132, or visit http://eh.dhmh.md.gov/ideah/. For information about Black AIDS Day events near you, please visit www.BlackAIDSDay.org. To find out more about HIV in Baltimore, or to get tested, visit the Health Department’s HIV/AIDS resources Webpage.
Know Your status, B’More!