February 7 Marked National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

February 7 was designated to bring HIV/AIDS Awareness to our nation’s African American community. In 2008, African Americans accounted for 56 percent of HIV cases reported in Houston/Harris County, according the Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS). National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day encourages African Americans to get educated, get tested, get involved, and get treated.

Year-round, Montrose Counseling Center’s Community PROMISE team works to educate African American Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) about HIV/AIDS and how to reduce one’s the risk of HIV infection. MSMs accounts for 33 percent of African American HIV cases reported in 2008, according to HDHHS.  The Peers Reaching Out and Modeling Intervention Strategies (PROMISE) program works by allowing members of the African American MSM community to share their stories about how they have lowered their risk for HIV infection. Ways of reducing risk include increasing condom use, reducing the number of sexual partners, decreasing substance abuse, and engaging in safer methods of drug use. Besides sharing their own stories, Peer Advocates distribute other role model stories, condoms, and bleach kits. Their participation allows MCC to reach people who otherwise might not receive services. For more information or to volunteer as a Peer Advocate, please call 713.529.0037 x321.

“This program is important because the HIV numbers among African American MSMs are very high, and we have the opportunity now to address the specific needs of this community,” says Education Program Coordinator Jaymie Mielke. The goal of the program is to decrease HIV infection among African American MSMs, and therefore to decrease Houston’s overall HIV rate. MCC’s Community PROMISE programs also include components which target Intravenous Drug User MSMs of all races.

Knowing your HIV status is an important first step in keeping yourself, your partners, and your community healthy. To schedule a free HIV test at your convenience, please call 713.529.0037.