National Black HIV/AIDS awareness day was first observed in 1999 to acknowledge how African-Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV. African-Americans represent 13% of the United States population but outnumber other races in diagnosis (43%), those living with HIV (42%) and in deaths (44%). As of February 2020, prior to Covid, there were 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States and 476,100 of that population is African-American. Some of the key factors of the disproportionate impact are racism, systemic inequities, social and economic marginalization, residential segregation, homophobia and other long-standing barriers. Dr. TaKeia Anthony, Executive Director of the A. Philip Randolph Social Justice Institute noted, “It is vital to spread awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and highlight how the disease has disproportionately affected African-Americans. We must be diligent not only in our testing advocacy but also in our research. It is essential to have researchers who are culturally, socially, and economically competent to dig deeper than the statistics. They must ask, why are African-Americans affected in larger number than any other race in America? The A. Philip Randolph Social Justice Institute at Edward Waters University aims to research and spotlight these disparities in Jacksonville.”
Florida led the nation in HIV diagnosis in 2017. Currently, the Sunshine State has the 4th highest HIV diagnosis rate in the United States behind Washington D.C., Georgia, and Louisiana, respectively. Similar to the national statistics, Florida’s African-American population is disproportionately affected. As of 2021, the rate of African-American males living with an HIV diagnosis is 4.3 times that of a White male and the rate of African-American women living with an HIV diagnosis is 16.2 times that of White women.
Edward Waters University’s Division of Student Success and Engagement is enlightening the campus and surrounding community about National Black HIV/AIDS awareness day by providing rapid HIV testing to students, faculty, and staff. Dr. Jame’l R. Hodges, the Vice President of the Division noted, “I am grateful for community partnerships and the national awareness for our African-American/Black families. With this year’s theme, ‘Engage, Educate, Empower: Uniting to End HIV/AIDS in Black Communities,’ Edward Waters University’s Division of Student Success & Engagement is committed to providing education and access to our students and the surrounding community. We have been intentional in partnering with the Area 4-Early Intervention Consultant to provide mobile HIV testing by the Florida Department of Health on Thursday, February 8th from 12-3 pm on the Centennial lawn.”
The majority of the student population at the university are native of Florida and Georgia; therefore, it is significant for Edward Waters University, Florida’s first Black Institution of Higher Education, to bring awareness to the campus and community.