Today, February 7, 2011, is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
The fact that we have to acknowledge this day during Black History Month is a shame.
This is a day we should remember all of the men and women who came before us, sacrificing their lives so that we could live better ones. It is not a day we should have to pause to remember the lives of all the people we have lost because we were too afraid to speak up.
As African-Americans, we should be alarmed and outraged that AIDS is ripping through our community the way that it is.
Of the close to 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States, around half of them are black.
And for those of you who think you are immune, just know that one out of five of these folks don’t know they are infected.
You may have already had sex with him or her. Or, he or she could be your next sexual partner.
You never know.
Black people, we must figure out why we can’t do something as simple as wear a condom, or insist that our partners wear one. We must get to the bottom of why it is so difficult for some of us to ask our prospective partners when they were last tested, and to show proof of it. We must also figure out what is keeping us from going to get tested ourselves.
AIDS activist Phill Wilson once said that the lesson we need to take from Hurricane Katrina is that the government is not going to send a boat for us on time. That means we must educate our own community around HIV and AIDS. Whether it’s on Facebook, on Twitter or through our own black media networks, we *can* save ourselves –we just have to decide to do so.
There are some among us who are not afraid to speak up – and to you I say thank you on behalf of all of us.
Thank you Darian “Big Tigger” Morgan for educating the hip-hop community about HIV/AIDS through your organization, Street Corner Foundation, and for making it cool to get tested.
I want to say thank you to the people over at the Black AIDS Institute, including Phill Wilson, Charlie Baran and Lenee Richards, who work day and night to raise awareness around this issue.
And I want to say thank you to Professor Cynthia Davis at Charles Drew University in Los Angeles. When she’s not teaching she takes a van out to all the inner-city schools in LA County to test kids and to educate them about HIV.
These are just a few of the unspoken heroes I’d like for us to pay tribute to during Black History Month, but please know that you, too, can be a hero. All you need to do on this day is:
*Post an HIV/AIDS fact on Facebook or Twitter or whatever other social media sites you use.
*Go out and get tested for HIV, and bring a loved one with you to get tested as well.
*Decide from this day forward that you will discuss HIV/AIDS with friends and family members even when it’s not National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, National Testing Day or World AIDS Day.
This is true love in action – for yourself and for others.
We have come too far to turn back now.
To find an HIV testing center in your area visit http://www.hivtest.org
For more about HIV/AIDS all year round, follow me on Twitter @hydeiabroadbent.
Hydeia Broadbent is an international HIV/AIDS activist and motivational speaker who was born with the disease.