February 7, 2015 marks the 15th annual observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), a national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative focusing on the black community in the United States and the Diaspora. Founded in 1999 as a national response to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in African American communities, the NBHAAD initiative leverages a national platform to educate, raise awareness, and mobilize the African American community. NBHAAD has four key focus areas which encourage people to:
- Get Educated about HIV and AIDS;
- Get Involved in community prevention efforts;
- Get Tested to know their status; and
- Get Treated to receive the continuum of care needed to live with HIV/AIDS.
Last month I had the opportunity to represent the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) at the 12th annual National African American MSM Leadership Conference on HIV/AIDS and Other Health Disparities in Atlanta, Georgia. Hosted by NAESM , the conference brought together over 400 black gay men, community leaders, academics, researchers, and government officials under the 2015 theme: “Leading the Movement: Pursuing Health Equity Through Social Justice.”
One of my goals during the conference was to learn from attendees about their social media efforts to promote HIV information for NBHAAD. Many I spoke with, mentioned the importance of using social media, particularly Facebook , to promote action around NBHAAD and amplify HIV/AIDS data from trusted sources like AIDS.gov, CDC and health departments. Some shared that they will use their own social media platforms to share information about campaigns targeting the black community like Greater than AIDS , Testing Makes Us Stronger , as well as home-grown initiatives that have been created within organizations serving black MSM throughout the country.[a] As a comparison, the 2012 Black Gay Men’s Communication Survey conducted by the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC) had found Facebook to be the most frequently used tool for reaching other Black MSM about their health. In my conversations at NAESM in 2015, I found this remained true.
To learn about how some community organizations will be raising awareness for NBHAAD, I spoke with Sammy Nesbit from the Legacy Community Health Services in Houston, Texas. He shared that his organization was promoting NBHAAD by hosting a Twitter town hall (also known as Twitter-chat), that will provide HIV education, testing resources, and also highlight the importance of the Affordable Care Act. In the days leading up to NBHAAD, the organization will be hosting several community events, including drag shows, to help promote HIV awareness in the Houston area.
In addition to using NBHAAD to promote HIV prevention behaviors like testing, I also heard at NAESM about the need to use this day to bring more attention to biomedical HIV prevention research advances like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Treatment as Prevention (TasP), and research studies like HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) study 073 . In order for these outreach efforts to be successful, we must continue to use technology like new media to help educate and engage community.
It was amazing to be in attendance at this year’s National African American MSM Leadership Conference on HIV/AIDS and Other Health Disparities. It was an opportunity, with other Black gay men and leaders, to come to the table to use awareness days like NBHAAD to continue to drive the urgency of bringing awareness to the epidemic in efforts to end AIDS.