By Stefan Oliva SYRACUSE, NY (NCC News) – According to the CDC, even though black people make up 13 percent of the nation’s population, they accounted for 45 percent of HIV diagnoses in 2015. Almost half of all AIDS diagnoses that year were among black people. The New Covenant Baptist Church in Syracuse held a World AIDS Day event on December 1 in an attempt to address that disparity and open lines of communication.
There are significant challenges, however, and overcoming fear is one of them. “Many people who come from communities of color still have this belief that HIV is a death sentence,” said Corbin Bryant, outreach specialist at Syracuse Community Connections, “and that’s not the case. Getting them to change their belief or that thought process is the hardest thing.”
Prevention is also a key element. There’s a pill called PrEP, which is short for Pre-exposure prophylaxis. In essence, it significantly reduces the chances of people who are at high risk of being exposed to HIV, according to the CDC. As a gay, black man who uses PrEP, Bryant notes that taking it by itself is not enough. He said people who use it should go to the doctor once every three months, have thorough STI testings and use condoms.
Having an open dialogue has to come before prevention. “[The black community doesn’t] like to talk about certain things because they portray weakness,” said Reverend Derek Galloway, “or there’s just certain aspects of our lives that we sweep under the rug. Sexuality, especially when dealing with the black church, was one of them.”
That is starting to change. Galloway says it took time to get into this negative mindset, but he’s optimistic it’ll change. “It’s going to take time to get out of it,” he said, “but together, we will definitely get out of it.”