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‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ Town Hall to Address HIV in Brooklyn’s Black Community

aidshealthcarefoundationIn response to the fact that African American and Latino communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) launched its national “AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue” public awareness campaign in February 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 partners Mount Sinai Baptist Church, Watchful Eye, and Love Alive International Foundation, Inc. to host an ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ dinner and town hall discussion at Mount Sinai Baptist Church from 5:30pm to 9:00pm on Thursday evening, September 18th. Bishop Gerald Seabrooks of Rehoboth Cathedral will be the keynote speaker after a panel discussion with several respected local community, political, health, religious and HIV/AIDS leaders. The forum is the sixth in a nationwide series spearheaded by AHF in February.

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 opening 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 Bishop Seabrooks and our esteemed partners in Brooklyn lend their voices to this important cause and discussion.”

At an earlier forum of the AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue campaign held in Los Angeles in late February, Reverend Al Sharpton spoke about the importance of overcoming HIV stigma to attain equal access to HIV/AIDS treatment for those in need. From the pulpit at Holman United Methodist Church in the West Adams District of Los Angeles, Sharpton told the rapt, overflow congregation: “Jesus heals the sick. He did not judge the sick,” adding with regard to those leading the Civil Rights Movement during the mid-20th Century: “I’m glad they didn’t judge me before they fought for me.”

AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ Dinner and Town Hall Discussion
Thursday, September 18th , 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm 

Mount Sinai Baptist Church
241 Gates Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11238

HIV/AIDS in Brooklyn

As of June 30, 2013, more than 28,750 people in Brooklyn were living with HIV/AIDS. There were 374 new HIV diagnoses in the Brooklyn borough in the first half of 2013 alone, and 231 Brooklynites died of AIDS-related complications during the same time frame, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s 2013 HIV Surveillance Mid-Year Report. This was the highest number of AIDS-related deaths in the first half of 2013 out of all the New York boroughs.

According to the same department’s 2012 Annual HIV Surveillance report, 1,394 of the HIV diagnoses throughout New York City in all of 2012 occurred in the black community compared to 1,019 in the Latino community and 611 among whites. The report states that, in 2012 “the HIV diagnosis rate among black males was over 1.5 times higher than the rate among Hispanic males and over 2 times higher than the rate among white males.” Additionally, it says that “the HIV diagnosis rate among black females was over 3 times higher than the rate among Hispanic females and over 12 times higher than the rate among white females” in 2012 throughout New York City.


About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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