First things first, remember that an individual's HIV status is personal and legally protected. Should someone share that information with you, you must consider it highly confidential and NEVER share it with anyone else.

Remember that HIV is not casually transmitted or contagious like the common cold or chicken pox. The methods of transmission are few and very specific. This is the time when the individual may need your support and compassion, both physically and emotionally. Giving a hug, allowing the person to cry on your shoulder, or holding hands can give him (or her) the affection that he desperately needs, especially if the person is a friend, and you are at no risk to be infected. Many people who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS face discrimination, negative stereotypes, and possible abandonment by family and/or friends. Given that the individual has trusted you enough to share this information with you, you may be the only person that he can turn to for sympathy, love, and affection. The last thing he will need is for you to treat him differently or in a discriminatory manner.* The person wants to know that you see him the same way, and that you will be there for him, no matter what the diagnosis.

Do remember that the person is potentially infectious if he is engaged in any of the high-risk activities, so it is important that you remind him not to have unprotected sex or to share needles with others, as well as disclose his HIV status when seeking/receiving health care.

Finally, remind your friend that an HIV diagnosis is NOT a death sentence. Now through the advancement of anti-retrovirals and other medications, many people who are diagnosed are able to lead longer and more productive lives. However, it is important that he finds a doctor that certified to treat HIV, so that he will be able to receive the appropriate treatments and medications. If your friend makes a conscious effort to lead a healthy lifestyle, maintains a nutritious diet, and remains consistent in taking his medication, there is no reason he cannot live a long, rich life, especially if he received an early diagnosis. In addition, explain that survival does not only depend on physical health, but mental health as well. Maintaining a positive outlook and perspective can make all the difference.

*Persons living with HIV or AIDS are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.


On Friday, November 7, 2008, an article entitled "A Doctor, a Mutation, and a Potential Cure for AIDS" was published in the Wall Street Journal, discussing the possibility of a cure.

A 42-year old AIDS patient living in Berlin recently underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia, and the results were hopeful. According to the article, his doctor,
Gero Hutter, specifically replaced the patient's bone marrow cells with those of a donor who has a naturally occurring genetic mutation that renders his cells immune to almost all strains of HIV. Even though the patient is still recovering, his doctors have been unable to detect HIV in his blood for over 600 days! This is especially remarkable because he has stopped taking all conventional types of AIDS medication. Usually, when someone stops taking their AIDS medication, the virus once again charges through the body within days or weeks.

Even though this case may be just a chance occurrence, it does provide hope that gene-therapy approaches to a cure may be on the right track. However, gene-therapy is seen as being on the far edges of AIDS research, and can prove to be too expensive to roll out globally. Most gene therapy is characterized by removing cells, genetically modifying them outside of the body, and then transfusing them back in. In addition, gene-therapy has unfortunately seen its share of failures. In 1999, an 18-year old patient died in a gene therapy trial. Even as gene therapy was able to cure children of severe combined immunodeficiency disease, aka "bubble boy" disease, it also caused patients to develop leukemia.

Nonetheless, the article explains that current AIDS medication may prove to be unsustainable, especially since anti-retrovirals must be taken for life and are expensive for developing countries where the disease is heavily concentrated. Now the search for a cure has taken on a new sense of urgency. Furthermore, gene therapy is expected to eventually play a substantial role in modern medicine, and researchers are hopeful that this latest case in Berlin is a sign of good things yet to come, and a cure for AIDS may be on the horizon.

For the full article, check out


In completing some research, the CDC found specific risk factors and prevention barriers that can help to explain the disproportionate HIV/AIDS rates in the African-American community. Two of the primary risk factors are described below. Please note that race or ethnicity alone is NOT a risk factor for HIV infection.


In a study of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) recently conducted by the CDC, it was discovered that
46% of Black MSM were HIV-positive, as compared to 21% of white MSM and 17% of Hispanic MSM. Furthermore, of the Black MSM who were positive, 67% were unaware of their HIV infection, as compared to only 18% for White MSM. Many times Black MSM who do not identify themselves as gay have heterosexual women as wives and girlfriends. The men engage in sexual contact with other men, do not get tested (therefore are unaware of their status), and unknowingly pass along the infection to the women in their lives, translating into the extremely high rate of infection among Black women.


The CDC has found that the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are highest among African-Americans. In 2005, Blacks were about 18 times as likely as whites to have gonorrhea and about 5 times as likely to have syphillis. Due in part to the physical changes that STDs cause, the presence of certain STDs can increase a person's chances of contracting HIV by 3-5 times. In addition, if someone has both HIV and other STDs, his/her chance of spreading HIV to others has also increased dramatically.

HIV continues to be a growing problem among African-Americans. These posts help to highlight the need for further education, testing sites, and simple honesty among sexual partners. The only way for us to combat this disease is through both individual and collective responsibility. You must make the choice to be careful in your sexual activity, but there must be an opportunity for individuals to gain information about HIV as well as receive testing. There must also be resources available for those who are already positive and are aware of their status, providing access to medication and treatment, helping to increase life spans and decrease the rate of transmission.

For further information on risk factors and barriers to prevention, check out


The one ethnic group that is most severely affected by HIV/AIDS in the U.S. is.....African-Americans. Since the beginning of the epidemic, Blacks have accounted for about 42% of the AIDS cases diagnosed in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Currently, African-Americans make up roughly 12% of the U.S. population, but account for approximately 50% of the diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases.

In 2005, the rate of AIDS diagnoses for Black adults and adolescents was
10 times the rate for whites and almost 3 times the rate for Hispanics. To fully understand these disproportionate statistics, we're going to dig a little deeper into the numbers as well as take a look at some root causes.

HIV/AIDS & African-American Men

Within the African-American population, men represent 64% of AIDS cases. In 2005, the rate of AIDS diagnoses for Black men was 8 times the rate for white men. Furthermore, looking at the different ethnic populations of male adults and adolescents living with HIV/AIDS, Black men made up 41%.


In 2006, 40% of the men newly infected with HIV were Black.

In regards to methods of transmission among African-American men, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) accounted for
45% of Black men living with AIDS in 2006. Injection drug use (IDU) accounted for roughly 27%, and high-risk heterosexual contact accounted for about 19%.

HIV/AIDS & African-American Women

Seeing as men represent 64% of the AIDS cases within the African-American population, women represent
36%. In 2005, the rate of AIDS diagnoses for Black women was nearly 23 times the rate of white women. Looking at different ethnic groups living with HIV/AIDS in 2005, Black women made up 64%.


AIDS is now the leading cause of death among black women ages 25-34.

HIV/AIDS & Youth and Children

Of the individuals
under the age of 25 whose diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was made during 2001-2004 in the 33 states with HIV reporting, 61% were Black. Even more disturbing, recent estimates have found that Blacks (non-Hispanic) ages 19-24 are approximately 20 times more likely to be infected with HIV than young adults in any other racial group. According to the international AIDS charity AVERT:

The overall infection rate among young Black people is 4.9 per 1,000 people, as compared to 0.22 per 1,000 people in all other racial groups.

Thanks to new treatment and the implementation of government prevention guidelines, the HIV rate among children and infants is now quite low. However, of the few infants that are still being born with HIV, a substantial number are African-American. Of the 135 infants diagnosed in 2006, 69% were Black.

So now the question becomes: Why is the HIV infection and AIDS diagnoses so disproportionately high in the African-American community? We'll examine some specific risk factors and barriers to prevention in Part II.

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We've taken the movement to MySpace! This gives a great opportunity to increase AIDS awareness among young (and not so young) people of the MySpace community while creating a network of individuals ready to take on the cause. So check us out at Add Inaction is Not an Option as your friend (you can use to search), and get connected! We should also be on Facebook shortly, so stay tuned!