In Observance Of World AIDS Day…

World AIDS Day( — The National Medical Association (NMA) joins organizations and persons worldwide concerned about the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. World AIDS Day, observed annually on December 1st, is the international day of coordinated activism against the continued spread of HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day provides an avenue to strengthen the coordinated global effort to face the challenges of this epidemic. As the oldest and largest medical organization particularly focused on the health of African Americans, the underserved, and other communities of color, the NMA has a vested interest in working toward the elimination of HIV/AIDS and its devastating impact on African Americans.

According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.3 million people living with HIV, including 2.5 million children. During 2009 some 2.6 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 1.8 million people died from AIDS. In the U.S., 1 out of every 300 people is infected with HIV. There is no cure for AIDS, and there is no vaccine to prevent HIV infection.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African American community made its “debut” in the early 1980’s and is entering its third decade as one of this country’s most critical and challenging health issue. Among African Americans, HIV/AIDS has produced especially grave outcomes. According to the National Center for Health Statistics 2006 Report, HIV/AIDS is one of the top 10 leading causes of death for African Americans; and in the same year African Americans accounted for more than half (54 percent) of estimated new HIV infections in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that a quarter of those living with HIV, more than 250,000 do not know they are infected.

As statistics indicate, the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to ravage communities unchecked and there is much to do. The NMA has for decades been at the forefront of efforts to address this disease. We continue to partner with the CDC, and other federal and non-federal entities to develop and implement HIV/AIDS educational and awareness programs that are designed for both physicians and patients. Our Sexual History Taking Tool  and our Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative are just two recent examples of our continued work to reduce the burden of this epidemic.

The NMA asks all their affiliates and partners to take part in some meaningful way such as the implementation of AIDS testing for all of their patients during the month of December. CDC and NMA recommend that all Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV as a routine part of medical care. Early diagnosis is a critical step for everyone. Visit the World AIDS Campaign website to read more about World AIDS Day 2011, find events, learn the history of World AIDS Day, and get resources to coordinate your own World AIDS Day event. To find a HIV testing site near you visit or visit NMA HIV/AIDS website.

HIV/AIDS is an epidemic that must be fought with massive, persistent effort on all fronts. It will take our collective will to continually reinforce key messages on HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and treatment, as well as the funding and resources to adequately put muscle behind the words. We cannot afford to do less.