In recognition of World AIDS Day, we had the privilege of talking to Michael Knight, fourth year medical student, Oakwood alum, and current President of the Student National Medical Association about SNMA’s Greater than AIDS campaign.
HealthOU: Is the Greater than AIDS campaign an SNMA initiative, or is it a nationwide project that SNMA is now a part of?
MK: The SNMA>AIDS Campaign represents the community empowerment component of this year’s national programmatic agenda for the SNMA. It builds upon our well established Sexual Health Awareness Protocol, in a unique partnership with the Greater Than AIDS Campaign: a movement responding to the AIDS crisis in the United States, and the severe and disproportionate epidemic in the minority community. Under the direction of the Kaiser Family Foundation and Black AIDS Institute, and in support of Act Against AIDS, a multi-year effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Greater Than AIDS seeks to increase knowledge and confront the stigma surrounding the disease.
HealthOU: What specific activities and events does SNMA have planned in honor of World AIDS Day?
MK: SNMA chapters across the United States and Caribbean have been encouraged to plan HIV/AIDS awareness related community outreach programs, or incorporate HIV/AIDS education into existing community programs throughout the year. Many have chosen to implement HIV/AIDS awareness events around World AIDS day. These events include community HIV testing, the distribution of educational materials, community meetings, and educational talks to inform and empower the minority community.
HealthOU: Today is World AIDS Day, but people live with the disease 365 days a year. What can we do as young professionals to demonstrate that we are greater than AIDs and assist in fighting against and increasing awarenessabout the disease?
MK: As young professionals, especially in the minority community, we first must realize that this is our issue. This disease is no longer uniquely effecting remote and homogenous communities; HIV/AIDS is at our front door. We must take the initiative to educate ourselves first, and then share this information with our colleagues, friends, and families. Let’s start the conversation! That is the first step in decreasing the stigma surrounding the disease, and opening the door to open communication in our communities.
HealthOU: What was the driving force behind collaborating with this project specifically, that targets HIV and AIDS ?
MK: For over 47 years, the Student National Medical Association has worked to address the needs of underserved communities. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is affecting these communities in such a disproportionate way that we cannot be silent in this area. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blacks make up just 13% of the total U.S. population, yet represent almost half of those living with HIV and about half of those with AIDS who die each year. This disparity is also present in other ethnic minority groups such as Hispanics, who have new HIV infection rates two and four times higher than whites for men and women, respectively. By partnering with the Greater Than AIDS campaign, our members, future minority physicians, will work to become the leaders and change agents that our patients, neighbors and families can depend on to address this vital issue.