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The XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008)
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Sheryl Lee Ralph Throws Down the Gauntlet

Actress and Long-Time Activist Dares All to Join Her at Lincoln Memorial to Stand Against Those Who "Don't Do a Damn Thing" About HIV Among African Americans

August 4, 2008

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On Aug. 4, a panel of African-American HIV community leaders held an emotional press conference in which they expressed frustration and anger about the lack of attention being paid to the HIV epidemic among U.S. blacks. After the press conference, we caught up with Sheryl Lee Ralph, an actress and long-time HIV activist who was one of the speakers at the press conference. (You can also click here to read or hear Ralph's passionate speech during the press conference.)

Sheryl Lee Ralph
Sheryl Lee Ralph
What do you feel people need to understand about the HIV epidemic in the African-American community that they currently don't know?

I think they don't know that sometimes, when people talk about sex and the way they are having it, some people do lie. There are a lot of men who will tell you that they are using condoms. As a minister told me yesterday, a lot of men lie about the sex that they are having.

How do you have the energy to continue HIV activism after all these years?

It has been almost 27 years, talking about this. And in 27 years in talking about this disease -- where I thought it might end up next -- I have been right on target each time. I know I'm the voice that makes people uncomfortable. But guess what? If we don't wake up right now -- as in, yesterday -- we are going to be hit with something that is so major, we are going to shake in our boots. They are going to start digging plots, because that many people will die in advance, and they've got to be ready for those people to be buried. That's if we don't wake up.

So I have to ask people: Are we ready to bury our children in America? Are we ready to bury our children? Like we think about education: We don't care about education. We certainly don't care about our health -- until we don't have it.

So, if you're like me, Saturday, September 27, 10:00 a.m., I'm going to put on my red jacket. I'm going to sit on the steps of the Lincoln Monument [in Washington, D.C.]. And anybody who thinks their health matters, I want you to join me. Do I think anybody's going to show up? Oh, hell, no. But I'm going to sit right there at Lincoln's foot, and I'm going to beg for freedom from the tyranny of people who talk about health, talk a good game, and don't do a damn thing about it.

Your health matters? Meet me at 10:00 on the steps of the Lincoln Monument, Washington, D.C. I'll be sitting there. I'll be waiting for you. Show up. I dare you.

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This article was provided by TheBody. It is a part of the publication The XVII International AIDS Conference.
See Also
It's Time to Demand Respect for Black People With HIV, Activist Declares
Pernessa Seele: How a Long-Time, African-American HIV Activist Keeps Up the Fight
Top African-American HIV Activist Calls for "National AIDS Strategy" in United States
Articles by Olivia G. Ford

Reader Comments:

Comment by: MS Luana Clark (Baltimore Maryland) Sat., Sep. 13, 2008 at 12:52 pm UTC
I've been living with HIV/AIDS since 1983. If I'm not mistaken I am the oldest living Black woman in Baltimore. I've seen the many different faces of AIDS over these years go from acute to chronic.
27 years later no cure or talk of a cure or a vaccine, just a hint of a promise. I feel that here in Baltimore we have enough qualified PLWH/A'S to hit the streets and start educating our communities one by one. I for one am not waiting for someone else to do what I know I can do!! "that's educate, educate, educate!!!!!! I am a a PLWH/A Black woman on a mission with a purpose. But only for the Grace of My GOD I will do this until my last breath. "I will be there to sstand with my SISTERS of COLOR, because I'm in this for the long haul!!!
It has been said that Silence equals Death, so I challenge every PLWH/A SISTER TO COME OUT AND BE HEARD and support the eradication of HIV/AIDS for our salvation and the furture of our race.
Thank you
MS. Luana Clark
Baltimore, Maryland Cripple, Blind, or Crazzzzy, I'll be in attendance.
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Comment by: Andrea Johnson-Hammond Mon., Aug. 18, 2008 at 7:57 pm UTC
WAY TO GO!!!! Being an HIV+ person due to an affair my now husband had, I want to say WAKE UP MY BLACK PEOPLE, PLEASE, because this is real. After almost 20 years of being in the legal field, my life's mission now, is to help save lives from HIV/AIDS in the City of Philadelphia and throughout our country. I am angry, mad and bold enough to stand up and not be ashamed to do something about this epidemic amongst Black America. I AM A VOICE THAT WANTS TO BE AND WILL BE HEARD. I am one of the soldiers in this fight to help save BLACK AMERICA. God willing, I will be there standing with you on September 27th @ 10:00 a.m. Andrea Johnson-Hammond - ED HIV Testing Coordinator & Counselor at UofP, Youth Advocate for YAP, Inc., Intrigue of the Black Butterflies, PHL Chapter and Founder of GIRL U CAN DO IT, INC.
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Comment by: Harold Hunter Mon., Aug. 18, 2008 at 3:04 pm UTC
Thank you. After 27 years, do you believe it!! It's like nothing is happening to prevent the spread of this disease. It's about behavior change and discussion in our community and families about sex, man sharing -- something black women do but don't ever talk about it. It's time to break the cycle and it begins on an individual level then it spread to family, friends and the community. Remember the seat belt law!!! Behavior change!!!
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Comment by: Lisa Espinosa Fri., Aug. 15, 2008 at 1:56 pm UTC
I looked up information on the September 27the Lincoln monument and was not able to retrieve any information upon google. Please inform me more of the event! Could someone send me more info.
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Comment by: Given Fri., Aug. 15, 2008 at 3:51 am UTC
I am a 27 year old black South African who is highly affected by HIV/Aids. I lost my cousin sister and now my only two brothers are affected. A lot of men from rural areas still blame the disease on women. If it's not ignorance then clearly the education does not reach them. Something needs to be done, NOW or we won't stop with the burials!!
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