NAACP Hosts Summit on HIV Among African Americans


Javascript and flash are required to play this audio file.

Download MP3

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA); Phill Wilson, CEO of the Black AIDS Institute; Jeffrey Crowley, Director, White House Office of National AIDS Policy; Frances Ashe-Goins, HHS Office on Women’s Health; and Greg Millett, CDC, address the NAACP summit.

To raise greater awareness of the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS in the African American community and mobilize action by community members, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Exit Disclaimer (NAACP) and the Harvard University Center for AIDS Research Exit Disclaimer co-hosted a summit in Washington, DC last month. The November 2 gathering, “The Forgotten Epidemic: Our Collective Response, Responsibility & Solution to the Black AIDS Crisis,” also highlighted how the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are helping to address HIV/AIDS in the African American community.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV of all racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Despite representing only 14% of the U.S. population in 2009, CDC estimates that African Americans accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections in that year. Compared with members of other races and ethnicities, African Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages of disease—from new infections to deaths. African American gay and bisexual men and African American women continue to be among the hardest hit populations. (Read the CDC’s new fact sheet HIV Among African Americans.)

Jealous & Brock

NAACP’s CEO, Benjamin Todd Jealous, and Chairman, Roslyn Brock, address the summit.

Audience members and panel participants spoke passionately about the role that social determinants of health play in sustaining those HIV-related health disparities.  They also discussed their shared commitment to mobilizing to end the epidemic. “This is an issue for many of us; 41 percent of Black people in this country know somebody who has the virus. For many of us this is very close to our hearts,” said NAACP President and CEO Mr. Benjamin Jealous. “The association is no different. We’re committed to being a powerful voice … We’re committed to pushing the conversation even further at the church level and the community level.”

Addressing these stark HIV-related disparities during the summit were speakers from across the Federal government including Mr. Jeffrey Crowley, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, who discussed how the National HIV/AIDS Strategy calls for prioritizing efforts targeting heavily impacted communities, including African Americans, as well as the importance of increasing HIV awareness and testing and reducing stigma among the same populations. The approximately 80 participants also heard from CDC’s Dr. Jonathan Mermin, RADM Deborah Parham-Hopson of the HIV/AIDS Bureau at the Health Resources and Services Administration, Mr. Greg Millet of CDC, and Mr. Christopher Bates, Executive Director of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). Mr. Millett spoke to the importance of addressing HIV stigma and homophobia in the African American community as part of efforts to reduce new HIV infections and improve access to HIV care and health outcomes in the same community. Finally, Mr. Bates spoke about PACHA’s commitment to focusing attention on the populations and communities that have been hardest hit by the epidemic, including African American gay and bisexual men and African American women.

Offering a perspective from Congress were Representatives Barbara Lee of California and Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, DC. Congresswoman Lee, co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, spoke about her work to end HIV-related discrimination and stigma, which hinders the nation’s efforts to prevent new infections and retain those living with HIV in care and treatment.

“The NAACP has identified HIV/AIDS as a national priority,” said Ms. Shavon Arline, NAACP’s Director of Health Programs. “We realize this is the number one killer among African American women ages 25-44 and will continue to raise awareness and bring a sense of urgency to this epidemic to save our families.” The summit was just one of several HIV/AIDS awareness and advocacy activities underway at NAACP, which is a partner in CDC’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative.

Underscoring the organization’s commitment to addressing HIV/AIDS, Ms. Rosalyn Brock, the national chairperson of the NAACP, closed the meeting with a rousing call to action. Invoking the perseverance and dedication of America’s civil rights leaders she urged the participants to be persistent in their efforts to educate and inform friends, family, colleagues and leaders at the local, state and national levels about the continuing impact of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and what needs to be done to address it, particularly among communities of color.


  1. chinedu okeke says:

    l want to ask a question after reading the above publications l want know why the increase in the HIV among the African Americans
    is poverty or illiteracy

    • Thank you for your question. According to the CDC, African Americans face a number of challenges that contribute to the higher rates of HIV infection.

      The greater number of people living with HIV (prevalence) in African American communities and the fact that African Americans tend to have sex with partners of the same race/ethnicity means that they face a greater risk of HIV infection with each new sexual encounter.

      African American communities continue to experience higher rates of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) compared with other racial/ethnic communities in the US. The presence of certain STIs can significantly increase the chance of contracting HIV. Additionally, a person who has both HIV and certain STIs has a greater chance of infecting others with HIV.

      The socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, including limited access to high-quality health care, housing, and HIV prevention education, directly and indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection and affect the health of people living with and at risk for HIV infection.

      Lack of awareness of HIV status can affect HIV rates in communities. Approximately 1 in 5 adults and adolescents in the US living with HIV are unaware of their HIV status. This translates to approximately 116,750 persons in the African American community. Late diagnosis of HIV infection is common, which creates missed opportunities to obtain early medical care and prevent transmission to others. The sooner an individual is diagnosed and linked to appropriate care, the better the outcome.

      Stigma, fear, discrimination, homophobia, and negative perceptions about HIV testing can also place too many African Americans at higher risk. Many at risk for infection fear stigma more than infection and may choose instead to hide their high-risk behavior rather than seek counseling and testing.


  2. Needham Mayes says:

    A preparation for prevention of HIV/AIDS has been sent to you about an intervention into this devasting Virus in the communities of Brownsville and East New York,Brooklyn.Please respond. How can I HELP?

    Needham Mayes, Lcsw-R


    very informative
    i feel male circumcision to be advocated at war footing
    sex education in schools sp. to girls has to be given priority
    congratulations for your efforts

Speak Your Mind