Local and Community News
Boston: Refocusing AIDS Fight
April 3, 2003
The Bayard Rustin Memorial Breakfast will be held on Saturday at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. The breakfast is an annual reminder of the toll HIV/AIDS has taken on the black and Latino communities and of the subtle changes in who is most affected by the epidemic.
The organizers' biggest fear is that there is a community impression that the disease is under control. Darrell LeMar, director of prevention and community education at the AIDS Action Committee, deals with such attitudes daily. "The black community is disproportionately affected right now," LeMar said. "Eighteen percent of the state's population are from the community of color. But 59 percent of those recently diagnosed as HIV-positive are people of color." LeMar speculates that the focus on groups that are obviously at high risk -- IV drug users and gay men -- has kept the message of continued vigilance from getting through to other groups.
Bayard Rustin, after whom the event is named, was a civil rights and labor activist best known for helping to organize the March on Washington in 1963. Openly gay, he was sometimes scorned within the movement because of his sexual orientation.
Belynda Dunn, an activist who died last year after two liver transplants, will be an unseen presence at the breakfast. The last fight for Dunn, who was HIV-positive, was against her insurer, who refused to pay for a liver transplant because it considered the procedure experimental. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino eventually raised $275,000 for her care, while her insurance company, Neighborhood Health Plan, contributed $100,000 to Menino's effort and promised to absorb any costs over $275,000.
Dunn will be remembered with awards to two activists: Douglas Brooks of the Justice Resource Institute, and Siong-Huat Chua, founder of Boston Asian Gay Men and Lesbians. Chua will receive the award posthumously.
04.03.03; Adrian Walker
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.