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How the Black AIDS Institute and Johnson & Johnson Are Making HIV History

Though new HIV infections and diagnoses in the US are on the decline, progress across different groups of people has not been equal.

Black people make up a disproportionate number of new HIV diagnoses and those living with HIV in the US, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly 40,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in the US in 2016 and approximately 44% of those people are Black. In particular, gay Black men account for the largest number of new HIV infections in the US.

But the Black AIDS Institute (BAI), a national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black people, hopes to change that.

“Every day is Black AIDS Awareness Day at the Black AIDS Institute,” Phill Wilson, President and CEO of BAI says.

When the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in the early 1980s, the virus was poorly understood and highly stigmatized. A diagnosis was considered to be a death sentence.

Take Action: Help reduce the stigma around HIV/AIDS

Medical and public knowledge of HIV/AIDS has improved significantly in the past three decades. But greater understanding of HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it is still crucial, especially among communities where stigma remains high, yet knowledge remains low, including Black and Hispanic/Latino communities in the US, according to research.

But today we know that, with effective treatment, people living with HIV can lead healthy lives. In fact, viral levels can be lowered through treatment, and once lowered to undetectable levels, HIV cannot be sexually transmitted.

For nearly 20 years, BAI has worked to stop the AIDS pandemic in Black communities by raising awareness, disseminating information, advocating for better health policies, and providing health screening for HIV and other infectious diseases.

“The challenge is to get ahead of the epidemic, to get ahead of the virus,” Wilson says. To do this, BAI has teamed up with Johnson & Johnson to help make HIV history. 

“That has been the hallmark of our partnerships with J&J over time because they know and we know that the epidemic is not over in our community and it’s not going to be over if we stop talking about it,” Wilson adds.

With the support from Janssen — a Johnson & Johnson company — Wilson and BAI intend to keep talking about HIV/AIDS. BAI and Janssen are working to create a national certification that will ensure a standardized base of knowledge among those in the non-medical HIV workforce. Janssen is also working with BAI to support its Black Treatment Advocates Network, through which the organization will be able to reach thousands of people in at-risk Black communities in the US with HIV testing services, cutting-edge HIV prevention, and knowledge about the virus and treatment.

By focusing on some of the most underserved, marginalized, and disproportionately impacted communities, BAI and Johnson & Johnson are working to conclusively end the HIV epidemic and are changing the trajectory of human health.