HARRISBURG, February 5, 2020 – State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, and state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia/Montgomery, today held an event in Harrisburg recognizing Feb. 7, 2020, as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in Pennsylvania.
“We like to think that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is over, but sadly, that’s far from the truth,” Wheatley said. “Today, over a million Americans are living with HIV/AIDS, including more than 476,000 African Americans. In fact, 1 in 7 people who have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are unaware they have it. While people with AIDS are living longer lives, thanks to medication, there is still no cure. Prevention remains the best option.”
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day began 20 years ago as a grassroots effort with hundreds of organizations. The yearly initiative encourages black people to get tested in the hope of putting an end to the disease. Wheatley has introduced H.R. 668 and Hughes has introduced S.R. 924, both recognizing National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in Pennsylvania.
“We have seen significant progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, however the black community is still disproportionately hurt by this epidemic,” Hughes said. “Despite comprising only 13% of the population, blacks accounted for 42% of new HIV diagnoses in 2018. We must do better for the health and wellbeing of our people. As we develop more effective treatments and continue the search for a cure to HIV/AIDS, it is critical we raise awareness and promote healthy, safe sexual activity to prevent further spread of this dreadful disease.”
Hughes and Wheatley were joined at the awareness event by state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia; Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine; Dr. Trish Gadson with Macedonia FACE in Pittsburgh; and Jeannine Peterson, CEO of the Hamilton Health Center in Harrisburg.
As part of his campaign to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in the community, Wheatley also hosted free HIV/AIDS screenings today at the Pennsylvania Capitol.
Pennsylvanians can also receive information on confidential testing by calling the state HIV/AIDS hotline at 800-662-6080 or the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 717-783-0572.