Opinion

AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Wednesday Feb 6, 2013
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Agency will sponsor two discussions about impact of HIV/AIDS in Black community and offer free HIV testing

BOSTON, February 6, 2013-Tomorrow is the 13th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. AIDS Action will mark the occasion with two events designed to raise awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS in the Black community, as well as free HIV testing.

Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, a CDC-trained epidemiologist and practicing infectious disease physician, will lead a luncheon presentation about HIV prevention and care in the Black community. Dr. Fitzpatrick was recently featured in the PBS Frontline documentary "ENDGAME: AIDS in Black America." The luncheon will take place at 1pm at AIDS Action Committee, 75 Amory St., Jamaica Plain. The event is free and open to the public.

AIDS Action Committee Educator Larry Day will lead "Coming Out of the Dark: Embracing the Invisible Black Man," a panel discussion about outreach strategies to Black men who have sex with men. Cambridge City Councilor Ken Reeves will speak and panelists include Lonnie McAdoo from the Department of Public Health; Erlinda Bodden from Cambridge Health Alliance; and Tom Bardwell from the Center for Social Innovation and Mass Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth. The discussion takes place from 10am-1pm at Cambridge Community Television Studios, 438 Mass Ave., Cambridge. The event is free and open to the public.

AIDS Action Committee will also mark the day with HIV testing at The MALE Center in the South End from noon to 8 p.m. All testing is free and results are provided immediately after being tested.

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was created in 1999 and continues as a part of a national initiative to increase education, testing, involvement, and treatment among Blacks and African Americans.

"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 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."

AIDS Action currently provides services to one-in-six people in Massachusetts living with a diagnosis of HIV, and 40 percent of the agency’s clients are Black. Since 1999, working with our partners around the state, AIDS Action has helped reduce new HIV diagnoses in Massachusetts by 53%, which has meant that nearly 6,000 people who might otherwise have become HIV positive have remained negative, and more than $2 billion in health care costs will be saved. AIDS Action has done this by targeting those populations most vulnerable to HIV infection, including US and non-US born Black women, Black gay and bisexual men, and Black transgender women.

AIDS Action provides outreach, education, and prevention services to Black men and women vulnerable to HIV in critical ways:

The MALE Center

Gay and bisexual men are at least 44 times more likely to contract HIV than the general population. Between 2006 and 2009, young Black gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 29 accounted for more than one-quarter (27 percent) of all new HIV infections nationally. This program of AIDS Action promotes the well-being of gay and bi men by offering rapid HIV testing (approximately 1,000 HIV tests were conducted last year); distribution of prevention and safer sex materials in bars and nightclubs; accessible mental health support; peer support; and monthly community events.

Bayard Rustin Breakfast

For 22 years, AIDS Action has hosted the Bayard Rustin Breakfast, a community event that annually brings together nearly 500 Black community members infected or affected with HIV. Named for Bayard Rustin, one of the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement who was gay, the Breakfast celebrates those who have shown uncommon courage in fighting HIV/AIDS in communities of color. This year’s Bayard Rustin Breakfast will take place Saturday, March 30, 2013 at Hibernian Hall.

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