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March 5th, 2010
03:19 PM ET

"i know" about HIV

By Caitlin Hagan
CNN Medical Associate Producer

With social media you can invite friends to your birthday party, keep up with your favorite celebs, and figure out whom you're hanging out with tonight, all at the same time. But did you ever think you also could use social media to stay healthy and even HIV-free?

Now you can. "i know" is a new campaign just launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its goal is to create an open, frank conversation about the dangers of HIV, especially among African-African young adults. According to the most recent census data, nearly half of all new HIV infections contracted each year occur in African-Americans, with more than a third of those happening in teenagers as young as 13 to adults as old as 29.

"There is a sense of urgency that we have got to work with young people to bring this HIV epidemic to an end," says Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC's National Center of HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

And yet despite those statistics, HIV remains an undertalked about subject within the African-American community, in part because of a fear of disclosing promiscuous behavior or sexual orientation, says the CDC.

That’s something they hope their "i know" campaign will change. Jamie Foxx and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges have joined the campaign and a Web site, a Facebook page and a Twitter feed have been set up to help foster conversation.

"We can break the silence," says Foxx in a new "i know" public service announcement. "Talk about using condoms. Talk about getting tested."

In a sense, the campaign is racing against time. Not only do more African-American youth contract HIV than their White or Hispanic peers, they tend to be the most unaware of their HIV status. The CDC says the rate of undiagnosed HIV infection among blacks is nine times higher than among whites of the same age. As a result, many black young adults learn they're HIV positive well after they've been infected, when it may be too late to treated effectively. That delayed diagnosis has serious consequences: 20 percent of HIV positive black youth see their disease progress to AIDS within a year of their diagnosis compared with 14 percent of their White peers.

"The impact among young African-American adults has been devastating," says Foxx. "We need to do something, all of us, especially young people."

But although young African-American men have the highest rate of HIV infection among any other race or ethnicity, and young African-American women have higher infection rates than young women of other races, concerns about HIV within the African-American community have been declining. A Kaiser Family Foundation study from last year found that from 1997 to 2009, the number of young African-Americans who said they were "very concerned" about contracting HIV decreased 14 percent. Yet, according to the CDC, 63 percent of the youth who died from AIDS in 2006 were African-American.

"This is part of a wider trend," explains Fenton. "We have more effective treatments for HIV now...so the face of AIDS is no longer the death and desolation it was in the ‘80s."

"People feel like this is no longer a threat but the reality is, we're seeing higher and higher rates of HIV, particularly among the African-American community."

To become a part of the "i know" campaign, check out the Web site website [www.actagainstaids.org],  Facebook page [www.facebook.com/iknow],  Twitter feed [twitter.com/iknow_talkhiv] or sign up for regular text messaging from the campaign.

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soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Dave Martin

    The best way to get people testing for the antibodies to HIV is not mandating testing, but to offer a tax credit for doing so, up to four credits a year (the only way to test for HIV itself is the RNA viral load test, which is currently too time-consuming).

    Anybody testing positive no longer needs to be tested and thus is no longer eligible for tax credits for tests after the positive result.

    This is an incentive-based approach to testing that has never been tried but would be more effective than forcing people to get tested or simply recommending the test.

    The old adage holds true: you can attract more flies with honey...

    March 5, 2010 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Trina

    I am glad to see someone which so much visibility touting the need to "know." Good job guys.

    March 5, 2010 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dipol

    A cure for this disease is the key. Period.

    March 5, 2010 at 20:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. michael

    Bravo Gentlemen, bravo!

    March 5, 2010 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Russ H

    You would think the parents would be better at voicing this HIV problem with them before it happens. I do not care about color, religiion or creed, just it has to come from the parents first, not after its happen. Look at Magic Johnson, rich does not stop HIV. Come on parents wake up. At least when they leave your house, you have discussed with them, and then if it happens you do not have to feel guilty.

    March 5, 2010 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. dman

    luda and jamie for real. they both my dudes but you have 2 people who possible is capable of carrying the virus themselves as many females they talk about getting some and so forth. can't have double negatives in the same sentence.

    March 5, 2010 at 21:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Nikki

    I find it ridiculous to have Foxx and "Luda" as HIV spokespersons since 98% of their lyrics promote sexual promiscuity. "I know", right?

    March 5, 2010 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Aaron Smith

    I just love how Luda and Foxx, some of the most sexually charged and prolific musicians decide to make a public service announcement – put down the henesey and the two chicks on your chain and let's talk about HIV and condoms folks...

    It's like our entire world has turned into an episode of In Living Color – funny comedy but um... it's real life folks...

    And Ludacris is fooling nobody with all his recent charity work, whoa unto he who calls good evil and evil good... wake up america these are the role models our kids will grow up to emulate.

    March 5, 2010 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. trish

    This piece is right on target .As healthcare providers, we see young
    African- Americans who literally are dying from complications of advanced HIV such as lymphoma tumors in the brain, end stage hepatitis C or other very serious infections that have progressed to point where they are extremely difficult to treat , HPV- related rapidly progressing squamous cell cancers (cervical, head and neck). Also we see young women who get no prenatal care or claim to not"know " they are pregnant coming into the ER in labor, putting the infant at great risk because the mother's HIV status is not available until after delivery. Many of these patients have never been tested for HIV or know they are HIV + and have chosen to ignore it for a variety of reasons, including not wanting to disappoint their families, not wishing to discuss their at- risk lifestyles (many partners, injectable drug use, gay male, etc). They also delude themselves into thinking it's OK to get HIV because "now they have pills to treat it". They will even someimes put family members caring for them at home at risk because of exposure to their blood/ body fluids.rather than disclose their HIV+ status. How tragic a waste of life and so much agony for those families. It is long past the time for young people of ANYethnicity to educate themselves and take responsibility for their behavior rather than expecting families, communities and the financially stressed healthcare system to pick up the pieces. (Same applies for other risk taking behavior such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, recreational drug use, massive obesity.) HIV testing and prenatal care are available for free. Almost all uninsured patients can be enrolled in govt. or pharma sponsored programs to get their HIV meds for free.

    March 7, 2010 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. John Bleau

    About 800,000 of the 1.1 million HIV+ Americans aren't even on the meds, yet deaths are 1/3 what they were in the 80s, so it's clearly not because today's meds are so good. It's that the high dosage AZT monotherapy in the late 80s and early 90s was so lethal. If someone's status will be used to bludgeon him into taking toxic meds for the rest of his live on the basis of an HIV+ antibody test that is officially disclaimed, maybe it's best that the individual not even know about it – he's generally best off the meds.

    March 7, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Kraig Rasool

    Its a great task for people in the limelight to join campaigns such as
    "I Know"...this information will passed down to people who dont
    pay attention to regular media and press...and its a good time to
    spread the awarenesss since recently Ive noticed and heard a lot of
    people young and old have gone back to not using condoms. Thinking
    aids has just gone to sleep., the term for this is "bare-backing"...which
    has recently taken off in all communities (straight and gay). Its a shame sometime how much power the media has when they can
    simply not talk about a subject, and its forgotten leaving some people
    to believe that change has taken care of some of the worst diseases
    known to man...People are not only dying in third world countries, they
    also dying right here in our own back yard..."I Know" campaign will
    do great justice and move people to a bettter way of thinking about
    protection..Kudos to those involved

    March 8, 2010 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. rachell32skeith

    Educating the people and increasing the awareness about the virus and the infection is perhaps the best means of preventing the disease.

    March 11, 2010 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Double Bedding 

    well, at least there is an HPV Vaccine these days that can prevent HPV infection:;.

    October 19, 2010 at 04:06 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.