Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day 2010

Today is World AIDS Day 2010, observed annually every December 1 to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic around the world. Since the beginning of the epidemic, the African American community has been hit hard – and in recent years is disproportionately affecting black women, teens and children.

Recent data from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that black women account for the largest share of new HIV infections among women at 61%, and although black teens (ages 13-19) only make up 15% of the U.S. population, they account for 68% of new AIDS diagnoses among teens. They note that a similar impact can be seen among black children. These statistics are troubling, but there is good news in that many individuals, organizations, and celebrities are working to educate, inform, and prevent this crisis.

One such effort is Greater Than AIDS, a collaboration of public and private sector partners united in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States, in particular among Black Americans and other disproportionately affected groups. Through a national media campaign and community outreach, the initiative aims to increase knowledge and understanding about HIV/AIDS and confront the stigma surrounding the disease. Among the several media partners in this effort are Ebony, Essence, Uptown, Radio One, and Vibe, and new partners recently announced are CBS, FOX and NBC along with the NBA.

A co-founding partner of Greater Than AIDS is the Black AIDS Institute, a national HIV/AIDS think tank that focuses exclusively on AIDS in the black community. Phill Wilson, President and CEO states, “Nearly 30 years since the first case of HIV was diagnosed, stigma remains a major barrier to prevention and treatment. Greater Than AIDS is about bringing us together as a community in a unified response.” Tonight in Los Angeles, the Black AIDS Institute will host its 10th annual Heroes in the Struggle gala themed this year around Greater Than AIDS.

Co-chaired by Magic and Cookie Johnson, the honorees include Bill Clinton, 42nd President and founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation; actor Blair Underwood; film director Lee Daniels; businesswoman, philanthropist and producer of "The Other City," Sheila Johnson; and AIDS activist Marvelyn Brown.

Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, actress Vanessa Williams, actress Tracie Thoms, event host Hill Harper, and Phill Wilson, Executive Director of the Black AIDS Institute attend the 2009 Heroes in the Struggle Gala in Los Angeles. See highlights HERE.

Among the numerous celebrities that give of their time to HIV/AIDS related causes are syndicated radio personality Tom Joyner, who supports HIV/AIDS education at HBCUs, Alicia Keys along with the organization Keep A Child Alive, which raised 2.3 million for the treatment and care of individuals living with AIDS at their 2010 Black Ball, and NBA legend Magic Johnson.

So how can you help? Here are three suggestions:

Be informed. Do you know the statistics in your city? What efforts are happening from your local health department, schools, churches and organizations to address the epidemic? The more you educate yourself; you’ll be more likely to roll up your sleeves and get involved.

Mentor. Research has shown that youth who are mentored by a caring adult are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, which includes sexual activity. For mentoring opportunities in your area, visit the National Cares Mentoring Movement, founded by former Essence editor Susan Taylor.

Give. Support your local HIV/AIDS organizations by donating your time, talent or treasure.

To learn more about HIV/AIDS in the black community, see previous posts HERE.

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