"How do we aim to reverse these alarming trends and support the Black community? By uplifting Black liberation through my team's policy and advocacy work. By defending the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid from destruction."
The nation spent last month honoring the accomplishments and courage of Black people throughout American history. We celebrated Martin and Malcolm and Maya and, on Feb. 26, Viola, Mahershala and Moonlight. Black History Month urges us to reflect on the too-often neglected achievements of Black Americans in every area of history.
But for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) family, our focus on Black history and improving the future of Black and brown people doesn't just happen in Februaryit happens every day of the year. We stand alongside the communities most burdened by HIV: young gay and bisexual Black men, transgender women of color and Black cisgender women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, in 2015, African-Americans accounted for 45 percent of all HIV diagnoses, though they make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population.
A number of factors woven into the history of the Black community in the U.S. explain this: unequal access to health care and other essential resources, the segregation of Black communities that makes community transmission more likely, and increased HIV stigma in Black communities. As Maxx Boykin, our manager of community advocacy and social justice, puts it, "Health is a social justice issue, and HIV and AIDS as an epidemic has grown in the Black community because of those social and economic determinants of health."
How do we aim to reverse these alarming trends and support the Black community? By uplifting Black liberation through my team's policy and advocacy work. By defending the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid from destruction. By uniting with organizations that support Black communities in Chicago, like the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus. By making Black lives a priority not just during February but every single day.
Your role in this fight is essential to our success. We need you to speak out against institutional racism that subjects Black people to police violence, economic inequity, incomplete access to education and health care, and a social landscape that unjustly prioritizes white skin above black and brown skin. We need you to stand with us at Advocacy Days in Springfield, IL to express your demands for a budget that supports all Illinoisans. Unite with us now, and forever, to ensure that equity and justice is granted to the Black American community.
Ramon Gardenhire is the vice president of policy and advocacy at AIDS Foundation of Chicago.