On Saturday in New Orleans, nearly 200 people participated in a traditional "second-line" march to raise AIDS awareness, particularly among African Americans.
The second annual Red Umbrella March in the Treme neighborhood was led by the Stooges Brass Band, Original Lady Buck Jumpers, and the Dumaine Street Gang. Along the route, people held red umbrellas and distributed free condoms and information about HIV/AIDS. Organized by HIV NOLA and the local chapter of The Links Inc., the march culminated in a rally at Congo Square.
"I think [HIV/AIDS] is something we have not acknowledged," said Michael Hickerson, event coordinator. "For so long, we believed that it was someone else's issue, that it wasn't our problem. While we were thinking that, the rates of HIV infections were steadily climbing."
"I have witnessed the numbers rise since I started practicing in 1997," said Dr. Corey Hebert, who, with radio personality Kelder Summers, was one of the rally's featured speakers. "The face of HIV/AIDS has changed dramatically," Summers said. "And we need to make sure it doesn't take another life."
"We are dealing with a disease that is cost-effective to prevent, and we're trying to get that message out," said Jean Redmann, prevention director at NO/AIDS Task Force. "A condom costs a nickel; a case of HIV costs about $600,000."
"I'm pleased to see so many African Americans talking about HIV/AIDS," Hickerson told the rally. "You are the message. Bring the message back to your friends, your family, your church -- everywhere."