HIV infection has had a demoralizing impact on the Caribbean Diaspora and the Caribbean-American communities throughout the United States for over 20 years. Surveys of Caribbean-American communities reveal significant health disparities, and have identified HIV/AIDS and inadequate access to health care as major health issues in this population.
According to the Centers for Disease Control people of color now account for a greater proportion of AIDS cases reported. A close examination of the U.S. AIDS cases over the past decade reveals that HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among African American between the ages of 25-44. It is important to note that African-American are often view as one group, there is, in fact, a wide variety of populations in the US included under this heading are upper class, lower class, Christian, Muslim, inner city, suburban, descendants of slaves and recent Caribbean immigrants all come under the African-American heading. Current epidemiological surveillance does not record these social, cultural, economic, geographic, religious, and political differences that may accurately predict risk.
A high rate of migration between the Caribbean and the United States creates potential public health implications for the delivery of care and treatment services for Caribbeans living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. The large degree of mobility among Caribbean populations includes migration not only between the Caribbean and the United States, but within states or travel to other cities (for example Miami, New York and Boston). This mobility may be due to employment, family obligations, need to hide (because of HIV stigma), and need to seek medical care.
Poor health, premature death and AIDS have challenged the extended Caribbean-American family in every part of the country to find new reservoirs of compassion, to increase our political voices, confront many difficult issues such as drug use, sexuality, poor health care which for generations, have been deemed unmentionable. The spiritual lives of our communities have been tested to its core as religious leaders reach out to advocate with families who have suffered stigma and exclusion.
June 8th, is the eight day of Caribbean-American Heritage Month in the United States and the first day of what will become an annual observance of -National Caribbean-American Health/AIDS Awareness Day. NCAHAAD is a national mobilization effort designed to encourage Caribbean-American and Caribbean-born individuals, across the United States and its territories, to get educated, get tested, get treated and get involved. It is also a time to reflect, memorialize and show compassion for those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. It is a day of hope for the future of a Caribbean and Caribbean American community with available preventive health care as a daily part of life and a Caribbean Diaspora free of AIDS.