HIV/AIDS Eradication, Awareness, Testing Remains Crucial

With an estimated 38.6 million people worldwide living with HIV at the end of 2005, and more than 25 million having died of AIDS since 1981, December 1st, World AIDS Day, serves to remind everyone that action makes a difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Observance of this day provides an opportunity for governments, national AIDS programs, churches, community organizations and individuals to demonstrate the importance of the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Established by the World Health Organization in 1988, World AIDS Day serves to focus global attention on the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that disproportionately impacts blacks above all other groups globally. African Americans must unify to eradicate the spread of HIV/AIDS and advocate for policies that assist those impacted by it, NAACP officials said in marking World AIDS Day 2006.

NAACP units across the country are engaged in various awareness activities to mark the day including the World AIDS Day Rally being held in Lafayette Park across from the White House this afternoon.  

While new infections have declined among some ethnic groups, the rates of HIV and AIDS cases among blacks continue to rise.  Blacks are less likely to be screened for HIV, more likely to become infected, less likely to get treatment and more likely to die from AIDS.

"The silence surrounding this disease is literally KILLING us," said NAACP Chairman Julian Bond. “Black America must eliminate the homophobia from our culture that is perhaps the single greatest barrier to our ability to talk about AIDS. Black America cannot expect others to come to our aid until we commit to help ourselves. Many will continue to perish unless we commit to mobilize into a unified and mighty voice to transform this tragedy.”

Black Americans now account for 54 percent of new annual HIV infections in the United States. Black women represent 67 percent of female AIDS cases, and black teens make up two-thirds of new infections in their age group. Seventy-two African Americans are infected with HIV every day and the AIDS rate among black men is eight times that of white men. Once positive, African Americans are seven times more likely to die from the virus than whites.

"Black America must stand up, accept ownership of this scourge and commit ourselves to fight it with every resource we can muster," said NAACP President & CEO Bruce S. Gordon. "Black America cannot wait any longer. This is our problem, these are our people and the solution must be ours, as well."

Later today, Bond will be presented the inaugural Coretta Scott King Red Ribbon Leadership Award from the National HIV/AIDS Partnership. The award exemplifies exceptional courage, leadership, and activism to end the silence and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in the United States.

Since Bond became chair of the civil rights group in 1998, the NAACP has established numerous resolutions and advocacy policies regarding HIV/AIDS in the United States. Bond, Gordon and NAACP Vice Chair Roslyn M. Brock set the tone in continuing that effort by publicly screening for HIV at the start of the Association’s annual convention in July.

By spreading the message that AIDS remains a significant threat through marches, educational films, reports, HIV/AIDS education and training by an array of African American leaders, the NAACP has challenged itself to break the silence surrounding HIV/AIDS in the African American community.

The NAACP's response to AIDS & HIV goes back some years. Since 1997 the NAACP has passed several resolutions that call for eliminating racial disparities in our nation’s approach to the AIDS epidemic in order to abolish the disproportionate incidences and deaths of African American and Latino communities; utilizing its network in the United States, Japan and Germany to work with organizations providing direct assistance in Africa to provide comprehensive services that prevent the spread of HIV on the continent while treating persons already infected with the virus and caring for their children; the use of needle exchange programs when they are a part of a comprehensive effort to prevent and/or treat drug abuse.

Among other actions, in 2006 the NAACP Health Department has:Provided HIV training at 7 regional conferences

  • Provided HIV training at 7 regional conferences
  • Disseminated co-branded report with Black AIDS Institute: "The Way Forward: The State of AIDS in Black America" ? distributed to all units and at regional conferences
  • Hosted a session during the 11th annual NAACP Religious Leaders' Summit where it was agreed that black churches must be more vocal on HIV/AIDS matters
  • Distributed HIV/AIDS ribbons with information cards at NAACP Images Awards and at regional conferences
  • Participated in the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada.

African-Americans do bear the burden of the virus in America. However, HIV/AIDS is indeed a human rights issue and must be addressed in that way. The virus is concentrated in the community for various reasons including factors associated with a lower socio-economic status, fear of stigma, denial and obtaining appropriate quality of care and/or equal access to health resources and services pertinent to survival.

Today's rally highlighted the growing HIV/AIDS crisis locally and globally and sought to underscore the need for new U.S. action to defeat this pandemic. Activists condemned the unfulfilled promises of the Bush Administration on HIV/AIDS and urged new initiatives to recruit and retain health care workers, change trade rules to expand access to essential treatment and increase funding for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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