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Blacks still losing ground and lives to HIV/AIDS

admin | 2/1/2012, 7:37 a.m.

Testing and treatment are key to 12th annual Awareness Day

It may have started as a drive to promote HIV testing and treatment at the national level but now Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day has become an annual event with all kinds of activities taking place in Black communities across the U.S. The 12th Annual Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day will be celebrated on Tuesday, Feb. 7th. The day focuses on four focal points: education, testing, involvement and treatment.And with each passing year, the necessity of raising awareness becomes more apparent. The response to HIV/AIDS in the Black community came late and we are suffering the consequences, said Phil Wilson, the founder and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. The number of HIV infection rates among Blacks are among the highest of any racial groups. In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Blacks accounted for an estimated 44 percent of all new HIV cases. If this pattern continues, the health research organization warns that 1 in 16 Black men and 1 in 32 Black women will be diagnosed with the immunodeficiency disease in their lifetime. The glass is half empty or half full, depending on how you look at it, explained Wilson. On the one hand Black Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted by the AIDS epidemic, [however], AIDS infections are down in Black communities from what it was in the 1980s and Black AIDS deaths are down. Local grassroots organizations such as Empower U, are among the local institutions to offer services including prevention information, health seminars and rapid HIV testing throughout the year. In recent years, an increasing number of Black churches have begun to dedicate resources and manpower in order to address the rising epidemic in their own communities. In Miami, churches such as Bethel Apostolic Church, Mt. Hermon African Methodist Episcopal Church, Ebenezer United Methodist Church andMt. Tabor Missionary Baptist Church have joined in the fight by offering ministries or services to those impacted by the virus. One of these churches also includes Liberty Citys Set Free Ministries which is led by the Rev. George Gibson. The Brownsville-based church, which also has its own AIDS ministry, will host a prayer service on Feb. 7th at 7 p.m. One of the goals will be to illustrate the importance of treating those infected with the disease with compassion. Christ had compassion for everyone when he went around doing his evangelizing and if were Christians we should be Christ-like and we should be following his example, Gibson said. Im just praying that more and more churches will open their hearts and doors to people with HIV and treat them with that sort of compassion. For more information about Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day or special events, visit www. blackaidsday.org; for information about Empower U, Inc., call 786-318-2337. By Kaila Heardkheard@miamitimesonline.com