March 15, 2012
Some 300 people attended the seventh annual National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Conference held on March 10 in New Castle. The daylong program aimed to educate African-American females about the disease and the importance of taking control of their sexual health.
Wilmington is home to almost half of the New Castle County residents living with HIV/AIDS. In 2009, nearly 30 percent of Delaware's new HIV cases were among minorities in Wilmington, state data show.
At the conference, guest speaker Glenda Hatchett, an attorney and author known for her syndicated TV show "Judge Hatchett," encouraged attendees to be victorious rather than victims. She also had a special message for mothers: "Teach your daughters not to compromise. Don't be afraid to say no. When my parents said no,' it was a complete sentence."
"We compete so much as women. But there is something we need to be on the same page about," said HIV/AIDS educator Carolyn Massey. "We need to take away the fear and stigma and have it become part of the normal conversation. It needs to be like how we talk about our hair. We will say, Your hair looks good.' We need to also be able to say, And you've been tested?'"
Kianna Collins and Maya Moore were among the teen girls who came to the program. They learned about the event through their church, Bethel AME in Wilmington. "It starts with us," said Collins. "We can't have everybody else making the decisions about our life. You have to be the one in control."