February 7, 2008 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Organizations across the country are taking part, encouraging testing and educating blacks about prevention. The Let's Talk, Let's Test Foundation is kicking off its recruitment campaign for its "I Need You to Survive" Sunday. The Chicago-based organization wants 10,000 ministers from across the country to commit to delivering an HIV prevention and awareness sermon on March 30. It's been two decades since the acronyms HIV and AIDS became part of the public consciousness. Since then, AIDS has swept the globe, killing millions with no thought to sexual preference, race or age. The death and despair left in the disease's wake has devastated families, countries and entire continents. Currently, there are 33 million people worldwide living with the HIV virus; the AIDS crisis is considered on of the biggest tragedies in modern history. Billions of dollars have been raised, at home and abroad, to both treat the disease and prevent infection. But not enough has been done in the United States to slow the spread of the disease in the African American community.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, African-Americans account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population, but make up 72 percent of newly reported HIV infections and over 50 percent of AIDS diagnoses. Why is the infection rate so high among our people? There are a several reasons. When AIDS first hit, it was seen as a gay white man's disease; African Americans failed to make HIV awareness and prevention a priority in our communities. Secondly, few financial resources are dedicated to specifically fighting HIV/AIDS in the African American community.
It is time for that to change. Awareness is the first step.
February 7, 2008 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Organizations across the country are taking part, encouraging testing and educating blacks about prevention. The Let's Talk, Let's Test Foundation is kicking off its recruitment campaign for its "I Need You to Survive" Sunday. The Chicago-based organization wants 10,000 ministers from across the country to commit to delivering an HIV prevention and awareness sermon on March 30. Understanding the power of the black church, Let's Talk, Let's Test believes black pastors need to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS in the black community.
They are right. We cannot count on the government to advocate for us. While some funds have been directed toward the country's black AIDS crisis, they are small in comparison to the billions that have been spent in Africa. Despite his many missteps as president,
George W. Bush will leave office in 2009 with a legacy as being a president who put a significant amount of American money towards fighting AIDS in Africa. The reality is that Bush thought Africa should solve its own problems. Colin Powell, who was then the Secretary of State, had to evoke the image of terrorists, convincing Bush the African AIDS crisis was a threat to national security.
Until some clever advisor can convince the powers that be that the African American AIDS crisis is a threat to the country's economy and social stability, African Americans are going to, as Bush once said, have to work harder to address the issue ourselves. We can start on February 7 by honoring National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness day. Get tested. Knowing your status is a key step in stopping the spread of the virus. Ministers, commit to "I Need You to Survive" Sunday. Use your voice to educate your church and the community around you.
For more information on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and "I Need You to Survive", visit www.blackaidsday.org and www.ltltfoundation.org.