African Americans represent 12 percent of North Carolina’s population, but they make up 66 percent of annual HIV diagnoses.
That’s why health advocates are on a mission to reach the African-American community and others at risk for the disease. Thursday marked National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which was founded by five national organizations funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help raise awareness.
Fred Whitted has had AIDS for 27 years. He credits an early diagnosis and an effective drug regimen for his survival.
“I know the medicine is extremely expensive and all that, but the hospital stay is even more expensive,” Whitted said.
He volunteers with the North Carolina AIDS Action Network to spread awareness and get people tested.
“Especially in some of the smaller rural areas, people won't even go into a doctor and mention there's a possibility that they could have AIDS, so they're not getting tested,” Whitted said.
Jacquelyn Clymore, the state director of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, said an estimated 7,000 people in North Carolina are HIV positive and don’t know it.
“We want to find those people, we want to get them tested and then we want to get them into care because that's what's going to save lives,” she said.
Clymore said a diagnosis is no longer a death sentence.
“People who are in care and taking their medication the way it's prescribed will live a long time - 20, 30 years - which means they may be living a normal life span,” she said.