Spreading Awareness on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
The nation is mobilizing for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a February 7 national initiative to respond to the crisis of HIV/AIDS impacting our African-American and African-immigrant communities. The event began in 2001 as a grassroots effort by hundreds of organizations seeking to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in their communities of color. This year's theme is, "I Am My Brother/Sister's Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS!"
"Despite making up just 13 percent of the population, African Americans bear the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S., accounting for nearly half of the estimated 1.2 million people living with the disease, nearly half of new HIV cases, and half of annual AIDS-related deaths," said President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, Phill Wilson.
Wilson and his team at the Black AIDS Institute will host events in Mississippi and Georgia, including a press conference and reception in Atlanta at 7 p.m. at the Loudermilk Event Center, 40 Courtland St. They will use the events to release "The Light at the End of the Tunnel," the latest report on the state of AIDS in Black America.
Nationwide, 38 percent of blacks between the ages of 13-24 were infected with HIV in 2010; and, male-to-male sexual contact made up 75 percent of transmission among black communities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report. In the first decade of the 21st century, cases in the state of HIV nearly tripled in young black men who have sex with men. In 2011, half of black males diagnosed with HIV were younger than 24 years of age.
While these numbers fluctuate year-to-year and state to state, complacency and misunderstanding about HIV, especially among the youth of all ethnicities and backgrounds, are barriers to awareness and education implementations across the U.S.
In an effort to raise awareness about these high rates of infection, NBHAAD is more than just a day of free, rapid HIV testing. Many cities are including community forums, candlelight vigils, art shows, theater events, film screenings, giveaways and contests.
In Los Angeles, the annual National Black HIV/STD Theatre Initiative, presented by Twinbiz, enlists playwrights and theater artists in the fight against HIV in cities across the nation. It encourages producers and others to write, read or produce at least one play a year in "Black churches, theatres, youth and senior centers, colleges, universities, prisons and living rooms across America until this preventable disease, where Blacks account for almost half the nation’s new infection rates, is eradicated."
On the East Coast, Renata Simone, producer, writer and director of "Endgame: AIDS in Black America" will be in Cambridge, Massachusetts to introduce the film during an open screening and community panel on Feb. 7 at the Whittier Street Health Center, 4-7 p.m..
Simone hopes the film will spark an open dialogue at a talkback session following the screening. The documentary features personal stories and interviews from HIV-positive individuals who come from Black communities across the country. Simone interweaves the roles of prejudice, stigma, drugs and prostitution in contributing to the spread of HIV in the Black communities of America.
And in Boston, CDC-trained epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick will lead a free luncheon presentation of "Endgame," in which she is featured, at 1 p.m. at AIDS Action Committee, 75 Amory St., Jamaica Plain.
"African Americans and other Black populations are disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS," said Rebecca Haag, President & CEO of AIDS Action Committee. "That disparity among infections also exists in Massachusetts, where Blacks make up only six percent of the state population, but comprise 29 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS."
AIDS Action Committee Educator Larry Day will also lead a free panel, "Coming Out of the Dark: Embracing the Invisible Black Man." The discussion will look at outreach strategies to Black MSM. Featured speakers include Cambridge City Council Ken Reeves, Lonnie McAddo from the Department of Public Health, Erlinda Bodden from Cambridge Health Alliance and Tom Bardwell from the Center for Social Innovation and Mass. Commission on GLBT Youth. It will be held from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Cambridge Community Television Studios, 438 Mass. Ave., Cambridge.
In New York City, GMHC and Iris House have teamed up for Just for Us, the only program to increase testing of Chlamydia and gonorrhea for lesbians, bisexual women and women who have sex with women.
"Our Just for Us program aims to bring awareness of the unique risk factors of lesbians, bisexual women and WSW in an effort to ensure more women know their HIV and STI status, practice safer sex and have access to resources and education available in our community," said Iris House Executive Director Ingrid Floyd. "The collaboration with GMHC increases our capacity to serve this population and better leverages our joint resources."
And across the bridge, Brooklyn Men (K)onnect will host "Testing Together," a groundbreaking new HIV testing and counseling service for male couples/sexual partners in a safe, neutral environment that affirms their relationship. Testing is by appointment only at the BMK Center, 145-147 Utica Ave. near Prospect Place. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And in New Jersey, the night heats up with Love vs. Lust, a spoken word and drag event featuring performances by Byanca, Michelle and Jo-Elle. The event, presented by Living Out Loud, will happen at 5 p.m. at the Hudson Pride Center, 32 Jones St. in Jersey City.
On the Internet, internationally recognized photographer and AIDS activist Duane Cramer, in partnership with Merck and Mundo Guerra of "Project Runway," is helping with launching the I Design Project campaign, which incorporates an interactive app for people living with HIV and health care providers.
"As a person who has lived with HIV for a long time, I’ve learned that self-expression is incredibly important, especially when it comes to working with my doctor on a treatment plan," said Cramer in a press release. "I am thrilled to join Merck and Mondo on the I Design campaign, and look forward to helping people living with HIV understand the importance of an open and ongoing dialogue with their healthcare provider to manage this chronic disease."