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Establish the National African Immigrant & Refugee HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis Awareness Day #NAIRHHADay

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We hereby call on President Obama, Congress, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis community to officially recognize September 9th as National African Immigrant & Refugee HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis Awareness Day (NAIRHHA Day). September 9th was chosen because, US Congress, the White House and Governors in over thirty states recognize September as National African Immigrant Heritage Month.

According to the US Census, the number of African immigrants moving to the United States has grown from 35,000 in 1990 to over 1.6 million in 2010. Almost half of African immigrants in the U.S. arrived in 2000 or later. Two-fifths of African immigrants have a bachelor’s degree or more education. More than one-third of African immigrants work in professional jobs. The African immigrant community contributes significantly to the economic and social welfare of the United States. Unlike other communities, the African immigrant community does not have a federally recognized awareness day that promotes health education and prevention, specifically HIV and viral Hepatitis.

Why is it important to have an HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis awareness day for African immigrants?

Awareness days have historically been established by community-led advocacy campaigns as a way to bring national attention, resources and policy change to sub-populations impacted by HIV and other diseases. There is growing data related to the disproportionate impact of HIV and Hepatitis B on African immigrants in the US.  According to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testing for Hepatitis B is recommended for people born in Africa and also, in a recent study that analyzed the HIV surveillance data of 8 jurisdictions – California; Georgia; King County, Washington; Massachusetts; New Jersey; New York City; and Virginia-DC – Africans accounted for 0.6% of the Black population, but 3.8% of those diagnosed with HIV among the Black population.

HIV, viral Hepatitis and other infectious diseases among African immigrants is a “hidden epidemic;” because of the failure of current US surveillance reporting requirements to collect data on the country of origin. Therefore, it has been suggested that a significant number of persons currently classified as African-Americans with HIV infection are African immigrants.

How does National African Immigrant & Refugee HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis Awareness Day (NAIRHHA Day) address this issue?

The purpose of NAIRHHA Day is to bring national and local attention to the HIV and viral Hepatitis needs of African immigrants living in the U.S. in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner. The creation of a national awareness day will also support the eradication of other epidemics fueling or related to HIV disparities among African immigrants, including Tuberculosis, Substance Use and Mental Health.

On this day, organizations, communities, families and individuals will

1. raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and viral Hepatitis to eliminate stigma

2. learn about ways to protect against HIV, viral Hepatitis and other related diseases

3. take control by encouraging screenings and treatment, including viral Hepatitis vaccination

4. get involved by advocating for policies and practices that promote healthy African immigrant families, communities and individuals

African immigrants and their allies are determined to have a significant impact on the HIV and viral Hepatitis pandemic by establishing NAIRHH Day. This is a momentous step towards acknowledging and addressing the needs of a growing percentage of the US population — and towards holding our leaders accountable each year as we continue this fight. 

Led by the Africans For Improved Access (AFIA) program at the Multicultural AIDS Coalition (MAC), Hepatitis B Foundation and Coalition Against Hepatitis for People of African Origin (CHIPO).

 



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