|Danny Bakewell, publisher of the 'Los Angeles Sentinel,' signing Declaration of Commitment and Call to Action|
Over twenty-five years ago, a strange new disease with no name was identified at UCLA Medical Center. In the intervening years that illness, AIDS, has become the defining health issue of our time, killing 30 million people worldwide, most of them Black.
Today, AIDS in America has become a Black disease. No matter how you look at it, Black people bear the brunt of the AIDS epidemic in our country. Of the estimated 1.2 million Americans living with HIV/ AIDS, nearly half of them are Black. African Americans represent over half of the newly-diagnosed AIDS cases in the United States, 47 percent of the new cases among, men, 67 percent among women.
We have dithered too long. Our national policymakers have lost focus. Each year, the epidemic worsens in Black neighborhoods, and each year the national commitment to interrupting its spread and keeping those already infected healthy further lags. AIDS in Black America is a difficult and multifaceted problem -- but it is also a winnable war.
Black organizations -- from churches to civil rights organization, from media organizations to academic institutions, cultural organizations to policy making bodies -- must make fighting AIDS a top priority by setting concrete measurable goals with real deadlines that will help end the AIDS epidemic in our communities.
We have an extraordinary opportunity to change the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic in America. AIDS in America will not end, unless and until the AIDS epidemic is stopped in Black America.
With that admonition, we the undersigned, commit to do the one and only thing that can end the AIDS epidemic in Black America and America as a whole: build a mass Black Mobilization.
End the AIDS epidemic in Black America in five years.
AIDS is not just a health issue. It is a human rights issue. It is an urban renewal issue. It is an economic justice issue. If we are to have any chance of winning the battle for racial justice in America, Black America must confront the AIDS epidemic. An army ravaged by disease cannot fight. A dead people cannot reap the benefits of a battle won.
In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hand.