The New York-based National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS recently kicked off its awareness tour of the South with a visit to Baton Rouge. The "Southern Women Matter! Engagement for Action Tour" focuses on increasing HIV knowledge among black women, who are disproportionately affected by AIDS. Other stops will include Jackson, Miss.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Atlanta. NBLCA also plans to take the campaign to other regions in the future.
The Baton Rouge visit was hosted by Aspirations, a youth HIV education and prevention organization, with support from the California-based Flowers Heritage Foundation, which focuses on disadvantaged communities.
"AIDS is the third leading cause of death for black women ages 24 to 44," said C. Virginia Fields, NBLCA's president and CEO. Among female HIV/AIDS patients, "black women account for 61 percent of new HIV cases and 66 percent of new AIDS cases," she said. "We're here to say it's up to us .... We know that with HIV/AIDS there is no cure, but it can be prevented."
The activists screened a video that presented several women's personal experiences with HIV/AIDS. The video urges women to have conversations with their partners about HIV testing and using condoms.
"I was in a relationship for five years. He got pneumonia. I felt in my heart it wasn't a regular cold," one woman says in the video "Many Women, One Voice: African-American Women and HIV." "I met him at church," began another. "If you're negative [for HIV], stay negative. If you're positive, get into treatment and protect yourself," one woman advises.
For more information on the tour and the video, visit www.nblca.org.