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Black AIDS Institute Launches National Network

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J -- The Black AIDS Institute (The Institute), with support from Merck, has announced the launch of the Black Treatment Advocates Network (BTAN).  BTAN, the first collaborative Network of its kind, will train and mobilize a team of treatment advocates with a mission to link Black Americans with HIV into care and treatment; strengthen local and national leadership; raise HIV science and treatment literacy in Black communities; and advocate for policy change and research priorities.

Black Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, and yet they are the largest group impacted by HIV/AIDS at 51 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  They also remain those least in care.  Studies show that among individuals with HIV/AIDS, Blacks are 59 percent less likely than Whites to be receiving HIV treatment.

"We are at an important juncture in the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic in Black communities.  Improving HIV literacy, increasing the number of trained Black treatment educators, and expanding the level of treatment advocacy in Black communities is critical to our efforts to end the AIDS epidemic in Black communities," said Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute.  "The Institute is pleased to partner with Merck, people living with HIV/AIDS, and community organizations to launch BTAN.  Their support, leadership, and dedication will help to lay the foundation for a new era in Black HIV/AIDS treatment education and advocacy."

The National Network will connect individuals from across the country and, for the first time, unify Black HIV/AIDS advocacy efforts under an umbrella initiative focused on reducing disparities and improving care for the Black American HIV community.  The Network will allow advocates to learn together – and from each other – via regular, national web-based trainings, regional programs around the U.S., and the Network website, which will serve as a portal to connect members and house resources to inform, guide and support efforts in the field.

"We are proud to support BTAN and partner with the Black AIDS Institute, AIDS service organizations (ASOs) and advocates across the country to launch this important initiative," said Patrick Bergstedt, senior vice president and general manager, Merck Infectious Disease Franchise.  "Merck is committed to helping reduce healthcare disparities and improve access to HIV/AIDS care and treatment for Black Americans through collaborative efforts such as BTAN.  This dynamic Network has the potential to positively impact the lives of thousands of Black Americans in the U.S. affected by HIV/AIDS."

Across the board, treatment advances have helped to result in declines of more than 70 percent in the national rate of AIDS deaths, but Black Americans are not benefiting equally from the breakthroughs.  Very few community-based treatment advocacy initiatives are rooted in agencies focused on Black communities.  BTAN aims to mobilize existing community leaders with appropriate training to create the backbone of a new era in Black American HIV/AIDS advocacy.

As its first major initiative, BTAN will partner with Merck & Co., Inc. and local ASOs in a small number of high prevalence, resource-limited "pilot" communities across the country to hold intensive science and advocacy trainings to address local critical needs.  The pilot launch cities for 2010 are Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaHouston, Texas; and Jackson, Mississippi.  A core group of advocates from these cities will be key to growing the Network and sustaining its long-term impact.

The pilot partners will be introduced at a BTAN program at September's U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA) in Orlando, Florida.


About the Black AIDS Institute

Founded in 1999, The Black AIDS Institute (The Institute), a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, is the only national HIV/AIDS Think Tank in the United States focused exclusively on Black people.  The Institute's mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing traditional Black leaders, institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV/AIDS.  The Institute offers training and capacity building, disseminates information, interprets and recommends private and public sector HIV policies, and provides advocacy and mobilization from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view.



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