Do black lives matter when it comes to health in America?
here have been major developments in both treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. in recent years and one of the most promising ones is Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP. However, as the persistently unacceptable high rates of new HIV infections underscore, PrEP and other biomedical interventions tools are not being applied effectively in Black communities. While new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. as a whole fell 19 percent between 2005 and 2014, new cases among Black gay and bisexual men, for example, increased by 87 percent.
When used correctly, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV by over 90%; however, it is still being underutilized in Black communities.
According to “Black Lives Matter—What’s PrEP Got to Do With It?”, the latest annual State of AIDS In Black America report recently released by the Black AIDS Institute (BAI), the response to PrEP in Black communities lags far behind that which is found in other communities. This report investigates why this is the case.
“The report examines where Black communities are in familiarity, understanding, knowledge, beliefs, access and utilization of PrEP. It also makes recommendations on how the community can maximize the potential benefits of PrEP and other biomedical interventions,” says Phil Wilson, President and CEO of BAI. “But most importantly, this report provides resources to help educate communities about PrEP and help communities access and finance this new HIV prevention too. Finally, this report makes recommendations on how Black communities can maximize the potential benefits of PrEP and other biomedical interventions.”
The report’s key findings include the following:
PrEP works. Research studies and demonstration projects have shown that PrEP is extraordinarily effective when used as directed. Protection against HIV infection approaches 100 percent for people who take PrEP as prescribed.
PrEP can help end the AIDS epidemic in Black America. On its own, PrEP can prevent 1 in 5 new HIV infections through 2020. Combined with scaled-up HIV treatment, PrEP could avert 70 percent of all new infections over the next five years.
Black America needs PrEP the most. America’s HIV epidemic is a Black epidemic. Black Americans make up 49 percent of all new HIV diagnoses. Black gay and bisexual men stand a 50 percent chance of acquiring HIV in their lifetimes, Black women are 18 times more likely than White women to be HIV positive, and Black transgender women are three times more likely to acquire HIV than their White or Latina counterparts.
When it comes to PrEP, Black America is being left behind. Every available measure indicates that while Black communities need PrEP the most, they are far less likely to receive PrEP than other racial or ethnic groups.
New scientific evidence suggests that robust PrEP uptake is achievable in Black America. New clinical trial findings indicate that programs that are tailored to the needs of Black gay and bisexual men and that proactively address barriers to uptake and adherence can promote strong PrEP utilization in Black communities.
An urgent national initiative is needed to expedite the uptake of PrEP in Black America. The ongoing AIDS crisis in Black America necessitates an urgent national initiative—one combining the efforts of policy-makers, funders, public health agencies, health-care providers, community organizations and Black communities.
black lives matter
The report’s seven key recommendations for next steps include:
- Investing in community education and awareness campaigns;
- Educate health-care providers about PrEP;
- Adapt delivery systems to facilitate PrEP uptake;
- Remove financial barriers to PrEP use;
- Undertake specific efforts to address the PrEP needs of women and transgender women;
- Strengthen the ability of PrEP programs to maximize STI control; and
- Continue to pursue a robust research agenda on PrEP.
black lives matter
“All of the biomedical interventions in the world will not end the AIDS epidemic in this country unless the people on the frontlines understand them, believe in them, and know how to use them,” says Wilson. “This report provides a road map for the appropriate utilization of PrEP and other bio-medical tools needed to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our communities.”
black lives matter