Elijah Woods, Co-Star, "Mama I Want to Sing;" K. Aletha Maybank, Assistant Commissioner, NYC Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene; Brian Benjamin, Co-Founder, Young Professionals United for Change; and Knoelle Higginson, Co-Star of "Mama I Want to Sing" attend "Love and Politics" on June 27, 2011 in NYC.
June 27, 2011 – In observance of National HIV Testing Day in New York City, several health and community organizations came together to host a two-tiered event, “Love and Politics,” aimed at raising awareness and promoting HIV testing. The events took place in Harlem and mid-town Manhattan. The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building in Harlem was the site of the day event, where local residents were given the opportunity to get free HIV testing. MAC Cosmetics offered free makeovers and WBLS provided the soundtrack for the afternoon while giving out free gifts to everyone who chose to take their power by finding out their status.
A few hours later at Aspen Social Club, “Love & Politics” honored those who are making strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This gathering also served to open the eyes of NYC’s young, professional community to the realities of the HIV/AIDS struggle. Over 250 people attended the evening event and indulged in cocktails, hors d'œuvres, and entertainment, while discussing the need to strengthen leadership and advocacy within this network in order to help bring about the change necessary to stop the spread of this preventable illness. The evening’s honorees included: Dr. Catrise Austin of VIP Smiles, Elkhair Balla and Jason Panda of b condoms, and Darryl Towns, New York State Housing and Community Renewal Commissioner.
Unfortunately, for many, HIV/AIDS remains a taboo subject, particularly in the African American community. Given the startling rate of infection, we cannot continue to be silent. Every 9.5 minutes someone in the U.S. becomes infected with HIV, and NYC has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the NYC AIDS case rate is almost 3 times the U.S. average and AIDS is the third leading cause of death for NYC residents aged 35-54. Within communities of color, the situation is even more alarming as African Americans and Latinos bear the greatest burden of the disease, making up 80% of new HIV diagnoses. An even more disturbing fact is that one out of every five people living with HIV/AIDS is unaware of his or her status, which is why testing is so critical.
Athena Moore, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS; Brian Benjamin; Kymsha Henry, Co-Founder, Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition
Honoree Elkhair Balla, b condoms; K. Aletha Maybank; Honoree Jason Panda, b condoms
Brian Benjamin and Juanito Fortuno, Co-Founder, JI Group
In total, over 150 people were tested for HIV. Love & Politics was hosted by Young Professionals United for Change (YP4C), National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA), BET, National Action Network, New York Knows (a NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene HIV testing initiative), Veaux Productions, and Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition (YWCHAC). Three key players in making Love & Politics a success were Brian Benjamin, Founder of Young Professionals United for Change (YP4C), K. Aletha Maybank, Assistant Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Athena Moore, Director of Public Policy/Special Projects for the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. Additionally, marketing and promotions for the event were provided by the Tara Dowdell Group along with host committee members Fabrice Armand, Dr. Catrise Austin, Elkhair Balla, Brian Benjamin, Sora Caetano, Jason Charles, Shadan Deleveaux, Kyle Donovan, Juanito Fortuno, Knoelle Higginson, Natalie LeBlanc, Martin Majeske, Dr. Aletha Maybank, Athena Moore, Kevin Powell, Diallo Shabazz, Chris “Kazi” Rolle, and Obinna Onyeagoro.
Photos/Source: Tara Dowdell Group