Education, Testing Mark Columbus Black AIDS Awareness

Tanya Motley, African American HIV Program Coordinator, Columbus AIDS Task Force.
Tanya Motley, African American HIV Program Coordinator, Columbus AIDS Task Force.

72% of African Americans are infected with the virus that causes AIDS every day in the U.S. Several Central Ohio Health organizations this week are sponsoring events to encourage safer sex and the importance of HIV screening.

According to the latest numbers from the Ohio Department of Health, twice as many blacks in Franklin County have tested positive for HIV / AIDS as whites.

“The rate for blacks is 448.9; this is per 100,000 population. As opposed to whites which is 190.”

Carol Bohumolski chief of AIDS surveillance for the department says the HIV population could by about 25% higher because some infected people have not been screened and don’t know they have the disease. On Wednesday a group of health organizations began a new round of education and testing according to Tanya Motley, African American HIV Program Coordinator for the Columbus Aids Task Force.

“It’s a world epidemic,” Motley says. “Color has nothing to do or no barrier with this disease. It doesn’t affect us that way, it affects us all. And I think that’s what we need to be more focused on is the transmission of the disease instead of the individual and the judgment of it.”

The groups offered screening Wednesday at two Columbus locations and will continue testing and educational efforts aimed toward African Americans through Saturday. Again Tanya Motley:

“We are 26 years into this epidemic but I think that if we can deal with human kindness and human dignity about this disease and understand that education is the key and knowing your HIV status is something individuals should be responsible for one-on-one,” she says.

The rapid rise in AIDS infections among blacks, according to Motley is “startling.” But more frightening, she says, are the people who don’t know they’re infected with HIV.

“The unknown is what scares me the most. We do want people to come in and be tested.”

Early treatment, Motley says, means a better quality of life for the person with HIV-AIDS.