The past few years, headlines everywhere have been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID has proven to be a dangerous challenge for society as a whole, it’s essential to not lose sight of other health conditions affecting our communities.

February 7th is Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and in keeping with the theme, we decided to share some facts about the endemic that Calhoun County and the United States of America are facing.

HIV/AIDS as an Endemic

Most people are familiar with HIV/AIDS, thanks to public awareness campaigns and pop culture. However, there’s a widespread misconception that the AIDS endemic is either not a problem in modern times or something only seen in “third-world” countries.

Both ideas are completely false. Not only is AIDS still wreaking havoc on the lives of people across the globe, but it’s much closer to home than many people think. In fact, HIV/AIDS has been officially designated as a generalized endemic in Michigan for Black men. That means HIV/AIDS is an outbreak that is consistently present in our state. It isn’t going anywhere.

HIV/AIDS in Michigan and Calhoun County

All demographics are susceptible to HIV/AIDS, but Black men are most at risk. According to prevalence rates from 2021, for every 2 white men in Michigan living with HIV/AIDS, there are 15 Black men with the same reality. In fact, over 1% of all Black men in Michigan have HIV/AIDS.

Although the endemic spans the state, Calhoun County has an elevated percentage of people with HIV/AIDS. Of the areas reported for the 2021 prevalence report, Calhoun County ranked seventh highest out of thirty cities and counties. In fact, in 2019, there were 185 reported cases of HIV infection in our community.

Addressing the Endemic

Scientists around the world are working to create more and more effective treatments and prevention measures for the HIV virus. However, in the meantime, there are several factors that can help prevent the spread and promote early diagnosis.

  • Destigmatizing HIV/AIDS. Since the 1980s, HIV/AIDS has often been portrayed in a morally negative light. However, just like any sexually transmitted infection (STI), HIV is simply another medical condition and not tied to a person’s morality or character. Destigmatizing HIV can help make education and access to testing more accessible, especially for those who may not feel comfortable reaching out for help due to perceived social threats.
  • Educating about safe practices. In many cases, the risk of spreading HIV/AIDS can be greatly reduced when someone has access to information and appropriate equipment. Barrier contraceptives are highly effective at reducing the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Additionally, those who use prescription or recreational injection drugs are encouraged to follow proper needle hygiene in order to protect themselves and others from infection. More information on prevention can be found here.
  • Taking preventative medication. Aside from barrier contraceptives and proper needle hygiene, those who are at risk of contracting HIV or have been exposed to HIV can take medication to help protect themselves. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a type of medication that can help prevent the chances of contracting HIV through sex or injection drug use. This is a preventative measure, but there are also medications made for those who have been exposed already. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is an emergency medication that can be taken within 72 hours of a possible HIV exposure to prevent the person in question from contracting HIV.
  • Providing access to care. In truth, HIV/AIDS is most prevalent in Michigan’s Black communities simply because they are more likely to be exposed to another person with HIV. This is partially due to a lack of access to proper preventative measures, testing, and medical care. Additionally, in 2018, only 5% of active U.S. physicians were Black. Without equitable access to care and representation in the people providing that care, many Black communities are placed at a higher risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses.

Resources for HIV/AIDS Prevention

As noted above, access to care and the right preventative measures can be huge factors in protecting people against contracting HIV. A lot of the time, finances or a lack of resources can get in the way of getting the care patients need.

To help, check out this list of financial and educational resources for HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment in Michigan and Calhoun County.

Educational and Preventative Resources

Testing and Treatment

HIV/AIDS testing is completely free.

PrEP and PEP Resources

If you or a loved one has questions about HIV/AIDS or any other medical condition, be certain to reach out to a licensed medical practitioner for more information.

Remember that December 1st is also World AIDS Day. Mark the date on your calendar so you can share it with your loved ones when the time comes. You can even contact Battle Creek Pride if you’d like to get involved with the community-wide advocacy event.

In the meantime, we encourage you to educate yourself and your loved ones about the risk of HIV/AIDS in our community. After all, Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is designed to spread the word and save lives.