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Sharpton visits Ft. Lauderdale to speak on AIDS

Jimmie Davis Jr. | 5/1/2014, 9 a.m.

The Reverend Al Sharpton visited the New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Ft. Lauderdale last week to call attention to the devastation AIDS is causing to the Black community.

“We must stand up for everyone’s rights,” he said. “This isn’t about who suffers the most. It’s about us rising up together.”

Sharpton spoke at a town hall forum held at the mega church, which hosted an HIV/AIDS conference. The event examined how poverty, poor health care, unemployment and incarceration perpetuate the spread of the disease to millions of Black Americans.

Sharpton says that “AIDS is a civil rights issue” and we must stand together, a new theme of his campaign to enlighten the public about HIV/AIDS.

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Al Sharpton

During the turbulent 1960s the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. along with a host of other dignitaries fought for rights on behalf of the poor. Several decades later, Sharpton is leading a crusade for equal treatment of individuals who are infected with the disease. The Aids Healthcare Foundation [AHF] and The New Mount Olive Baptist Church are also part of the movement.

The HIV/AIDS virus continues to destroy the lives of people from all walks of life. The diseases relentlessly attack the body’s immune system, leaving it defenseless against the germs and other illness. The disease is also known to affect more Blacks than Whites.

“The battle that we face is states’ rights versus the national government,” said Sharpton at the event. “We must always protect the minority against the moral majority.”

Rising above being afflicted with HIV since birth, Hydeia Broadbent, 29, an activist and humanitarian, spoke briefly during the forum about her frustrations with her lack of medical coverage.

“I lost my insurance and I’m not taking any medication because I don’t have the money to pay for them,” said Broadbent. “My medications cost $3,500 a month.”

A poster child for HIV, Broadbent was abandoned at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas where Patricia and Loren Broadbent adopted her.

Dr. Marcus Davidson, Senior Pastor of New Mount Olive Baptist Church along with Dr. Rosalind Osgood, CEO of Mount Olive Development Corporation (MODCO) was instrumental in bringing the town hall discussion to reality.

Osgood says that MODCO has taken a very progressive approach to eradicating AIDS in her community.

“We provide housing,” said Osgood. “We have been providing service for 18 years. We reach our people through love.”

It was love that gained the attention of Bobby R. Henry, Publisher of the Westside Gazette, whose daughter has the disease.

“In 1989 I found out that my daughter was infected,” Henry said. “I’ve opened the door to help my daughter.”

Henry himself took the test and his results were negative.

The forum panelist also included Rev. Roger Grimes, Senior Pastor of Ft. Lauderdale COGIC and Dr. Deborah Holmes, AHF Medical Director.

Many members of the South Florida community have been incarcerated in jails, where they engage in high-risk behavior with one another.

“Our inmates get tested while in jail,” said Broward Sheriff, Scott Israel. “It’s strictly volunteer.”

The funding for HIV/AIDS is constantly under the knife and Jason King, Legislative Affairs spokesman for AHF, said his agency is delighted to collaborate with Sharpton and Mount Olive.

“We have to penetrate the Black community to get the word out,” King said. “The Rev. Al Sharpton believes in the work that we do and our mission. What better way to reach the people than having symposiums such as this.”