Tackling HIV/AIds As A Civil Rights Imperative

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Rev. Sharpton keynote speaker

In response to the fact that African American and Latino communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has embarked on a new national “AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue” public awareness campaign intended to highlight this health disparity as well as to emphasize the fact that access to HIV prevention, care and treatment for HIV/AIDS should be universal.

As part of its campaign, AHF has teamed with local Mississippi partners Tougaloo College, Mississippi Faith in Action, My Brother’s Keeper, Brown University’s Center for AIDS Research, CommonHealth ACTION and the Mississippi Center for Justice to host an ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ town hall discussion at Tougaloo College (Bennie G. Thompson Center) from 6:00pm to 9:00pm on Friday evening, February 7—National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The forum—which also takes place during Black History Month and during the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—is the first in a nationwide series spearheaded by AHF. Reverend Al Sharpton will be keynote speaker, followed by a program featuring a town panel discussion with Hydeia Broadbent, an HIV/AIDS activist & humanitarian HIV-positive since birth, as well as several respected local community, political, heath, religious and HIV/AIDS leaders.


WHEN: Friday, February 7th, 6:00pm to 9:00pm TOWN HALL DISCUSSION

WHERE: Tougaloo College, Bennie G. Thompson Center500 W. County Line Road, Jackson, MS 39174

WHO: KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Reverend Al Sharpton, Civil Rights LeaderHon. Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor, City of Jackson (introduces Rev. Sharpton)

PANELISTS: Hydeia Broadbent, HIV/AIDS activist & humanitarian, HIV-positive since birth; Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi State Department of Health; Dwayne Pickett, Senior Pastor, New Jerusalem Church; Reginald Buckley, Executive Pastor Cade Chapel; Fenessa Halsell, Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative; M.C. & PANEL DISCUSSION MODERATOR: Othor Cain

Currently African Americans account for 44% of all people with HIV/AIDS in the United States, yet only account for 12% of the population. Latinos account for 21% of all new HIV infections nationwide, yet only represent 16% of the U.S. population.

Disproportionately high numbers of HIV/AIDS cases among communities of color may be caused by several factors, including:

• Lack of access to clinics for care and HIV testing.

• High levels of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in these communities prevent people from learning their HIV status, or from seeking care and speaking honestly with their partners if they know they are positive.

• Both society and the healthcare industry have marginalized members of these communities both on account of sexual orientation and race, blocking essential treatment, care, and education for those who need it.

“Our ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ public awareness campaign is intended to open dialogue with stakeholders in the community, the public health arena, and faith-based groups as well as public officials about health disparities and the importance of universal access to HIV prevention and care and treatment,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “We are honored to have Reverend Sharpton and our esteemed partners in Mississippi lend their voices to this important cause and discussion.”

Dr. Amy Nunn, a professor at Brown University who has conducted scientific research about racial disparities in HIV infection and how best to engage black clergy in HIV prevention, notes that, "HIV testing and treatment are among our most effective HIV prevention interventions. Scientists, activists, clergy and others must find common ground and work together to promote greater access to HIV testing and treatment. Access to these life saving services is a social justice issue."

AHF’s ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ Billboard Campaign Running Now in Atlanta; Washington, DC; Columbus, OH; Baton Rouge, LA; Jackson, MS; South Florida and Los Angeles

Over the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend in January, AHF launched its innovative national ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ billboard campaign. AHF’s billboards are intended to serve as a reminder of the fact that African American and Latino communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS compared with their respective percentages of the overall population. The campaign also hopes to send the message that access to HIV prevention and care and treatment for HIV/AIDS should be a universal human right. The billboard campaign is running now in Atlanta; Washington, DC; Columbus, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; South Florida and in Los Angeles. In most of the cities, the campaign will also be posted as transit shelter ads.

To address some of the health disparities highlighted in the ‘AIDS is a Civil Right Issue” campaign and town hall forum, AIDS Healthcare Foundation recently opened two AHF Healthcare Centers in Southern states: One, in Jackson—the AHF Healthcare Center/Jackson, 766 Lakeland Dr., Jackson, MS 39216, +1 (877) 470.8071; the other, in Baton Rouge—AHF Healthcare Center/Baton Rouge, 8281 Goodwood Blvd., Suite D, Baton Rouge, LA 70808, +1 (225) 231-5733.

Please join us and a multitude of faith-based communities in the South in illuminating and fighting the persisting bias against communities of color as we collectively strive to lower the incidence of HIV/AIDS, and together we can ensure all communities have equal access to the tools we need in this fight.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 279,000 individuals in 32 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare




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