February 7 Marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.–Clear Health Alliance (CHA) hosted a conversation today among health care providers, community leaders and nonprofit organizations on prevention and care of HIV/AIDS. NBA Legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson was the spotlight of the event at the Jacksonville River City Downtown Hotel, which also featured Secretary Simone Marstiller of the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).
“I learned of my diagnosis more than three decades ago, and the world was in a completely different space,” said Johnson, who is living with HIV. “Now, through research and innovations, we can combat this virus and disease, and the stigma associated with it. I’m proud to work with Clear Health Alliance and our community partners to raise awareness, promote testing and provide treatment, especially to African American people, who are at greater risk.”
The event focused on how HIV/AIDS affects Black/African American people, as February 7 marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. While anyone is at risk of HIV/AIDS, a higher population of Black/African American people are disproportionately affected. In 2019, Black/African American people represented 13% of the U.S. population, but 40% of people with HIV.
Clear Health Alliance, a Medicaid Specialty Plan offered by Simply Healthcare Plans (Simply), is working to increase awareness, promote prevention and provide treatment among all Floridians, especially populations at greatest risk.
“Providers with HIV/AIDS education and training are vitally important to prevent new infections, improve the quality of life of those living with HIV/AIDS, and help to reduce stigma and discrimination, often increasing the longevity and overall health of people living with HIV/AIDS,” said Holly Prince, President of Simply. “Clear Health Alliance offers care and specialists uniquely positioned to support our patients living with HIV/AIDS to ensure that they have access to the quality care they need and deserve. Prevention, early detection and effective treatments are critical to ensure Floridians with HIV/AIDS live long and healthy lives.”
Because some population groups have higher rates of HIV in their communities, the risk of new infections is greater. Additionally, a range of social, economic, and demographic factors such as stigma, discrimination, income, education, and geographic region can affect people’s risk for HIV and their HIV-related outcomes.
“With the trend of new infections in Florida, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment are more important than ever,” said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Simone Marstiller. “We have an opportunity to make a difference and end the HIV epidemic in Florida. Partnerships and awareness events like the one today, with respected voices like Magic Johnson and Clear Health Alliance, are critical to that effort.”
Johnson led a panel discussion with health care providers, where he posed questions to the panelists about effective prevention methods and what community organizations can do to increase awareness.
“People impacted by HIV/AIDS not only deserve quality care, but care that is specific to their needs,” said panelist Ne’Tosha Dopson-Woodall, PA-C, MCMS, Physician Assistant, Florida Department of Health, Duval County. “Clear Health Alliance provides specialized care that helps patients with HIV/AIDS live long, healthy lives.”
“Currently, there is no cure for HIV. Prevention is key to limit the impact on at-risk communities,” said panelist Daniel J. Downer, Executive Director, The Bros in Convo Initiative. “Prevention starts with education. Our discussion today helps raise awareness for HIV/AIDS prevention and care. We’re all in this together to combat HIV/AIDS.”
“Science has shown us that we can end the HIV epidemic, but it will take concerted, community-centered efforts backed by partners at all levels of government,” said panelist Donna Sabatino, RN, ACRN, Director of State Policy and Advocacy, The AIDS Institute. “To be successful, we need to address the needs of the most marginalized members of our society. Programs like this spotlight the work that still needs to be done and keeps the conversation going.”
The audience consisted of 100 health care providers, community leaders and nonprofit organizations with a vested interest in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment among Black/African American communities.
According to the latest data from the Florida Department of Health, more than 117,000 Floridians live with HIV. In 2019, the state reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 5,000 new infections, which is the highest number of new infections nationwide.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness was started in 1999 as a grassroots education effort to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS prevention, care and treatment in Black/African American communities. The observance is an opportunity to increase HIV education, testing, community involvement and treatment among Black/African American communities – topics the CHA panel discussion echoed and elaborated on.