Wheatley, Hughes hold event recognizing National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Feb. 4 – Today state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, and state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia/Montgomery, held an event in Harrisburg recognizing Feb. 7, 2019 as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in Pennsylvania.

“We like to think that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is over, that this problem has been solved,” Wheatley said. “But unfortunately, that isn’t true. Far too many Americans are still living with HIV/AIDS, and a disproportional number of them being African-American. HIV/AIDS can be prevented, it can be treated, but only as long as people get themselves educated and get themselves tested.”

According to Wheatley, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day started as a grassroots effort with hundreds of organizations. This year marks the 19th year for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, an initiative targeting black people to get tested in the hope of putting an end to the disease. Both Wheatley and Hughes plan to introduce legislation recognizing National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness in Pennsylvania.

Wheatley said the need to raise awareness is real. At the end of 2014, there were an estimated 470,000 African-Americans living with HIV — and one in six of those didn’t know it.

“The data is clear and informs us that this is still a major problem in the black community,” state Hughes. “Blacks make up 12 percent of the population but account for 44 percent of the HIV diagnoses. We have to continue to raise awareness and find solutions to this ongoing epidemic because of its disproportionate impact and because we care about the health and well-being of our brothers and sisters.”

Hughes and Wheatley were joined at the awareness event by Dr. Loren Robinson from the Pennsylvania Department of Health; Jeannine Peterson, CEO of the Hamilton Health Center in Harrisburg; and Julia Och of AIDS Free Pittsburgh.

As part of his campaign to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in the community, Wheatley also hosted free HIV/AIDS screenings at the Pennsylvania Capitol on Tuesday.

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.