From Bryan Baugh, M.D., Medical Director, Janssen Therapeutics
It happens every year around this time. My memory floods with images and thoughts from my time before I joined this company: I’m brought back to my work as a physician treating HIV/AIDS patients in the African-American community of Southeast Washington, D.C.
My recollection is actually part of something much bigger this week, as people around the country recognize the 12th National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) on Tuesday, Feb. 7. This day of awareness is especially poignant when you consider the true burden of this virus behind the staggering statistics. Here’s just a few of the most compelling facts from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
• While blacks represent approximately 14 percent of the U.S. population, they account for almost half of people living with HIV in the U.S. as well as nearly half of new infections each year.
• Approximately one in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV during his lifetime, as will one in 32 black women.
• Among blacks, men account for 70 percent of new HIV infections. Women account for 30 percent.
• Within the African-American community, gay and bisexual men are the most affected, followed by heterosexual women.
When I heard the official 2012 theme for NBHAAD – I am My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS – it really hit home. It made me think about the people I knew from my time working as a physician, people who inspired me in many ways. I’ve carried their inspiration forward and it helps me keep the people we serve foremost in everything I do.
So today, as part of my personal call to action to honor NBHAAD, I would like to share just some of what I’ve learned about the burden of HIV in the African-American community through some recent Janssen Therapeutics efforts.
I’ve learned that while progress can be made, more needs to be done to address the gap in HIV clinical knowledge on women of color, as demonstrated in a clinical study by our company called GRACE. In medicine, I’ve heard it often said that its difficult to recruit people of color and women to participate in clinical trials. And I found this to be especially true from my work in the HIV community. While women of color are among the groups most impacted by HIV in the U.S., they have been underrepresented in HIV clinical trials. GRACE, which stands for “Gender, Race And Clinical Experience,” demonstrated that it is possible to recruit large numbers of women into HIV clinical studies in the U.S.
Through another initiative – a study of African-American frontline care physicians conducted by Janssen Therapeutics in collaboration with the National Medical Association, or NMA of which I’m a member – I learned that a variety of social stigma factors were found to be the largest barriers to routine HIV testing by these physicians. We announced findings last August.
And last year I was again reminded of my time treating people with this virus, especially the intensely personal and emotional burden of an HIV diagnosis. I was viewing videos about four people – three of them people of color – who refused to let their HIV diagnoses define them and now help others living with this condition. Our company produced this series, The Journey: Portraits of People Living with HIV, in response to what we’d learned from the HIV community about the need to help those newly diagnosed deal with the common emotional barriers that often accompany an HIV diagnosis.
The four people featured in this educational series serve at AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) as peer advocates for others living with this condition. Chad, Daniel, Hattie and Andre share their personal stories on the barriers to care they faced, and eventually overcame, including stigma, isolation, disclosure and acceptance. The videos launched in September on the Johnson & Johnson Health Channel on YouTube.
Today, two of these video portraits speak with especially resonant voices: Hattie and Andre, two African-Americans living with HIV, one from Birmingham, Alabama and one from New York City, both peer advocates helping others with HIV. We’re pleased to feature Hattie’s video on the J&J Health Channel this week and invite you to view all four brief videos as a way to share the true meaning of this year’s NBHAAD theme I am My Brother’s/Sister’s’ Keeper.
To learn more about the country’s National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, visit the U.S. Government’s resource and blog, AIDS.gov, at:
To learn more on the HIV and AIDS among African Americans, check out the CDC online fact sheet at
To find an AIDS service organization near you for support and services, visit AIDS.gov at www.AIDS.gov/locator.