This post originally appeared on the NHCOA blog.
The effects of HIV on the Caribbean Diaspora and Caribbean-American communities in the U.S. are devastating. Just like other diverse communities, health disparities— including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and HIV/AIDS— as well as access to health care are prevalent in this population. Given that the U.S. Caribbean-American population is also underrepresented in national data and statistics as many are grouped under the African-American demographic, it is important to commemorate yearly events such as the National Caribbean-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NCAHAAD) to promote health education, engagement, and HIV testing among diverse communities.
Every year on June 8, Caribbean-American leaders across the country sponsor an array of activities to promote HIV/AIDS awareness, as well as draw national attention to the health status of Caribbean-Americans in the U.S. In 2008, Caribbean-Americans represented about 240,000 of the people in the U.S. living with HIV and approximately 20,000 new infections every year. As data indicates that older Americans, especially those from diverse communities, are increasingly at risk for HIV infection, it is imperative that the HIV/AIDS prevention and education messages promoted on NCAHAAD and similar awareness days include and reflect this key population.
How We Can Get Involved
There are several ways we can contribute to sharing this important message within all our communities because HIV is an equal opportunity disease that can affect anyone, at any time and any age:
- Use intergenerational relationships to talk HIV
Through NHCOA’s work as a partner of the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, we know that many Latino seniors are open to dialoguing with younger generations. (Some even opened up and shared their advice on video.) Leveraging the close relationships many older adults have with their kin, especially grandchildren, is key to eliminating stigma and shame, as well as encourage talking about HIV.
- Get tested and encourage others to do as well
If you are sexually active, the only way to know your HIV status is to get tested. This is especially important for older Americans who think they can’t get infected with HIV because of their age. There are many clinics that offer free testing, and recipients of Medicare Original also are entitled to free HIV testing every 12 months as part of their covered tests and screenings.
- Get involved with organizations and leaders who promote HIV health education and prevention
Galvanizing the community around issues that impact their health and well-being is a crucial part of ensuring that every person has access to the information and resources they need to make informed health decisions.
- Encourage loved ones to get treated if they are HIV positive
HIV awareness isn’t just about preventing the infection, but also supporting and encouraging those who are HIV-positive. Patients who regularly and consistently receive treatment and care can lead longer, healthier lives, managing HIV as a chronic condition. The key is to enter treatment and care— and stick to it— as soon as a person knows they are HIV-positive to reduce the chance of developing AIDS, as well as spreading the infection to others.
- Get social and spread the word
Start and engage in conversations through your social media networks to spread awareness using the hashtags #NCAHAAD and #caribaidsday.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.