Via county news 

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was enthusiastically endorsed Thursday by Multnomah County’s Board of Commissioners as a chance to have frank conversations about the stigma that contributes to stubbornly high HIV rates in the African-American community.

“It’s important for us to know what our health status is,’’ said countyCommissioner Loretta Smith. “It’s critical to make sure you get the right health care information.

“In many ways it’s not an easy conversation,” Commissioner Smith said. “But it’s a courageous conversation we need to have.”

Before the board voted unanimously for a proclamation to mark Friday, Feb. 7 as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in Multnomah County, commissioners heard from representatives of the Cascade AIDS Project and the Albina Ministerial Alliance about the alarming rates locally and nationally of HIV infection.

In 2010, African-Americans comprised 14 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections. About one in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, as will one in 32 black women. Blacks and African- Americans in Oregon are more than three times more likely than whites to acquire HIV infection.

“We need to start early so we can prevent this from becoming much larger than it already is,” said Alaiyo Foster, Cascade AIDS Project’s manager of education services. “It affects all of us.”

Speakers said the troubling numbers place a huge premium on the nationwide effort to mobilize black communities to “get educated, get tested, get involved and get treated.”

“The national strategy is being tested, being engaged and getting treatment,” said Maurice Evans, a CareLink network navigator with Cascade AIDS Project. “There is more that needs to happen.”

For a complete list of Cascade AIDS Project events for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day as well as for other services, visit the Cascade AIDS Project’s website