A high number of HIV cases among the LGBTQ community’s African-American and Hispanic populations has become one of the top health crises in the Houston area and the southern United States. Specifically, the sub-groups at greater risk of acquiring HIV are African-American and Hispanic men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people of color ages 13 to 34. In response, the Houston Health Department (HHD) is launching a comprehensive strategy and a unified advertising, social marketing and digital branded campaign called I am Life.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the annual number of new HIV diagnoses stabilized in recent years in the United States and dependent areas. However, annual new diagnoses have increased among some groups.
In 2017, three in five newly diagnosed Houstonians were African-American or Hispanic gay or bisexual males of all ages. Also in 2017, two in five newly diagnosed Houstonians were African-American or Hispanic MSM between ages 15 and 34. Additionally, Hispanic MSM have 2.7 times the rate of being newly diagnosed with HIV (a 173 percent increase); and African American MSM have 6.4 times the rate (a 540 percent increase).
With funding provided by CDC’s Project PrIDE Initiative, the goal of the I am Life” campaign is to support HHD in reducing the number of HIV cases and increasing viral suppression among African-American and Hispanic MSMs, and transgender people of color. The I am Life” campaign involves people from Houston’s LGBTQ community telling their stories to strongly encourage their peers to be responsible and be safe by taking Pre-Exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) daily, and if they have already acquired HIV, to “Get in Treatment and Stay in Treatment” to “Become Undetectable” to live healthy and longer lives.