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Local groups mark National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

by Hannah Clay Wareham
Thursday February 9, 2012

Local LGBT and HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations marked National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

The Hispanic Black Gay Coalition (HBGC) released a video titled "I Am More Than HIV" in order to shed light on the larger impact that HIV/AIDS has on the Black community. Six community members-including one faith leader-speak during the video and reflect on how their community has been affected by the epidemic. Each of the participants responded to a series of questions including: "When did you first become aware of HIV?"; "What are your thoughts on the recent CDC reports?"; and "What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with HIV?" The video features an HIV-positive community member and two transgender individuals-voices that, according to the organization, are traditionally excluded from the discussion of HIV treatment and prevention in the Black community.

"We hope this video will offer a fresh perspective for how HIV is impacting communities of color while giving a voice to Black individuals to share their thoughts on what it will take for our community to rise above the epidemic," said Quincey J. Roberts, Co-Founder of the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition and creator of the short documentary. "We also hope the video will serve as a form of support to those newly diagnosed with HIV in showing that there is life after HIV."

The 25-minute video can be viewed on YouTube by clicking here.

The AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC) marked National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day by hosting HIV testing at the MALE Center in the South End from noon to 8 p.m. Results of the free tests were provided immediately after testing.

"African Americans and other black populations are disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS. There are approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, and nearly half of them (545,000) are Black even though Black Americans represent only 12 percent of the U.S. population," 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."

The day was also marked nationally with testing sites and education and awareness events.

"Today marks the 12th year for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), which features public events that offer testing and prevention techniques throughout the U.S.," said Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and CEO of The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC). "This year's theme is 'I am my Brother/Sister's Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS.' This national day of community education and empowerment began as a means of engaging African Americans about the epidemic spread of HIV within our families and neighborhoods. While we have made great strides, the numbers are staggering and it remains clear that our most vulnerable-youth, straight women, and gay/bisexual men-need additional support networks to prevent the spread of HIV through education and testing."

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