Though it is a national holiday, many Black students at NU were unaware that February 7th was National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Statistics show that African Americans make up 44% of individuals affected with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., even though they only make up 12% of the population.
But when asked about their thoughts on HIV/AIDS, several students revealed they had never been tested for the disease. The question becomes then, why does there appear to be a lack of HIV/AIDS awareness within NU’s Black community?
[Interviewed persons’ identities have been omitted due to the nature of the topic.]
Why not get tested?
Many students just don’t think they are at risk.
“I guess because I have had a very limited amount of sexual partners, I felt my chances of being infected were slim. I know other mechanisms to get infected exist. But I definitely haven’t had a lot of HIV/AIDS education so I’m not privy to all of the ways of getting infected. I also believe there is an element of class in all of this. The area I’m from, HIV/AIDS wasn’t much concern, so there wasn’t education and I felt my lifestyle didn’t fit the profile of the ones that are always projected as high risk.”
What contributes to modern perceptions and stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS?
“[Most people] view the other [STDS] as treatable, although that’s not necessarily true. HIV/AIDS is associated as the worst and as fatal.”
Only one respondent acknowledged the disease’s racialized nature and the possible lack of intersection between stigmatized communities:
“I don’t necessarily think those stigmatized groups [Black and LGBTQ+] are always in conversation with each other. If you’re talking about AIDS in conversation with Black communities, you’re not as often also in conversation with gay communities.”
Does our generation stigmatize HIV/AIDS the way people did in the past?
Many stigmas still surround HIV/AIDS, but when asked about certain stereotypes held by older generations—e.g. that only gay or sexually deviant people get affected or if the disease is unmanageable—100% of interviewees agreed that for the most part, times have changed.
“I know they [these stigmas] still exist, but I haven’t bought into that.”
“Not within the Black people that I interact with.”
The Fight Isn’t Over
The theme of this year’s National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day—“Stay the Course! The Fight is Not Over!”— is very fitting considering the apparent apathy toward HIV/AIDS education and testing. The stigmas attached to the disease, while not as widely condoned, still impact attitudes toward HIV/AIDS testing and awareness.
Looking to get tested yourself? Visit the Black House between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. this Valentine’s Day for free, confidential testing.