Coinciding with Black History Month, ETSU Multicultural Affairs is sponsoring an event for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Multicultural Affairs will be giving out red ribbons signifying solidarity in the struggle against HIV/AIDS.

In addition, staff from Kingsport STI clinic HOPE for Tennessee will be offering HIV/AIDS tests to attendants. There will be no charge.

“Our main goals are to inform and give people free testing,” said Multicultural Affairs Assistant Tedra Bennett. “Testing is important for everyone. Even if you don’t think you’re infected with HIV/AIDS, knowing for certain will give peace of mind.”

Treatment for HIV/AIDS may be improving, but it is still a deadly disease. The CDC reports that, in the United States alone, 6,721 people died from HIV/AIDS throughout 2014. In that same year, HIV/AIDS was the 8th leading cause of death in individuals aged 25-34 and 9th for those aged 35-44.

Current treatments for the HIV/AIDS remain rather costly. According to the CDC, HIV/AIDS medications can cost upwards of $400,000 over an average lifetime. To make matters worse, those with private insurance may still be required to cover a hefty copay. Some state Medicaid programs do not even cover people diagnosed with HIV unless they develop AIDS or are otherwise disabled.

“Black people are often reluctant to get the testing they need,” said Bennett. “Awareness Days help educate them about the availability and necessity of testing.”

African Americans are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Though African Americans comprised only 12% of the United States population in 2016, black individuals received 44% of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses that same year.

Youth is another risk factor in HIV/AIDS. Young people (ages 15-24) comprised 16 percent of the United States population in 2015, yet they received 22% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses that same year. Gay and bisexual men made up 84 percent of the young people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2015. Out of all demographics, young, African American gay and bisexual men are the most likely to be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

“Multicultural Affairs has partnered with HOPE for Tennessee for many Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Days,” Ms. Bennet said. “Our events raise awareness and help people get on with their lives.”

The event will take place from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Feb. 7 within the D.P. Culp University Center, meeting rooms 4A and 4B.