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Today, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette recognizes National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and reaffirms our commitment to addressing the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on Black communities through comprehensive HIV prevention, testing and linkages to care. Throughout Black History Month, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette is highlighting the history and contributions of Black leaders and community members who have fought for reproductive health, rights and justice across our digital platforms. We will continue to work with this generation of leaders to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, address stigma and center the work of Black community leaders working to provide care for people living with AIDS.

Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette is an important resource to Black communities in Oregon and Southwest Washington for HIV prevention, testing and treatment. Every year, our health centers administer nearly 12,000 HIV tests.

We are also proud to be among the more than 400 Planned Parenthood health centers in 44 states across the country that offer pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill that can help reduce transmission for people who are at high risk for HIV.

Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette also offers post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) — a series of pills that, if taken within 72 hours of being exposed to HIV, can lower your chances of getting it.

Knowing your HIV status is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health and your partner’s health, and to take control of your sex life. HIV tests are easy, quick and confidential. You can’t tell by looking at someone if they have HIV. You also can’t tell if you have HIV based on whether you have symptoms. All STDs, even HIV, are treatable, and many are curable. Early treatment can help prevent serious, lifelong health problems, but you can’t get treatment if you don’t know your status. And the only way to know your status is to get tested.

Statement from Austin Lea, Community Education and Outreach Coordinator, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette:

“As one of Oregon and Southwest Washington’s leading HIV testing providers, we are proud to offer our patients compassionate, nonjudgmental HIV prevention services, such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), testing and education. The discrimination and stigma faced by the groups most affected by HIV and AIDS — Black women, trans people, young people and men who have sex with men — can leave these communities without access to HIV prevention tools and lifesaving treatments. It can also leave people living with AIDS without the care and support they need. We’re proud to work in partnership with local organizations to ensure that all people have the education, tools and health care they need to live full lives and reach their goals.”

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population, but 44% of new HIV diagnoses. If current diagnosis rates continue, one in two black gay or bisexual men, one in 20 Black men and one in 48 Black women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. This racial disparity is mostly because of stigma — which can prevent people from talking about HIV/AIDS and from getting tested — and limited access to related health care. While the racial gap in disparities is closing, threats to the programs that help people access health care threaten to roll back progress.

The Trump administration’s proposed gag rule would dismantle Title X — a program that ensures more than 4 million people struggling to make ends meet can still access birth control, STI testing, cancer screenings and other essential reproductive health care. About 22% of people who access health care through the program are Black or African American. Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette is committed to fighting back against this rule to protect our patients’ access to care.