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The XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008)
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Pernessa Seele: How a Long-Time, African-American HIV Activist Keeps Up the Fight

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 Pernessa Seele, the CEO and founder of The Balm in Gilead, who was one of the speakers at the press conference. (You can also click here to read or hear Seele's emotional speech during the press conference.)

Pernessa Seele
Pernessa Seele
There was so much passion, and so much rage, in your words when you were speaking. How do you sustain that energy, how do you keep it going, after all these years of doing this HIV work?

I'm sustained by two things. First, I'm sustained by my ancestral, traditional connection to people like Harriet Tubman. When I think about Harriet every day, and what she did to save black folks, I am sustained, and get up and do it again the next day.

The second way I'm sustained is by the numbers [of African Americans with HIV]. I am challenged. I am disgusted. I am frustrated that black folks are just missing in the equation. And somebody has to get up, no matter how tired, no matter how disgusted, no matter how frustrated; some of us have to get up every morning and do something about it.

If you could do one thing -- if you had absolute power -- to reverse the course of the HIV epidemic in the black community, what would you do?

The one thing I would do is, in the beginning, when AIDS hit, I would have the black church be at the forefront of calling forth a comprehensive plan of addressing HIV and AIDS, and not go into this stigma stuff.

Thank you so much.

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This article was provided by TheBody. It is a part of the publication The XVII International AIDS Conference.
See Also
Top African-American HIV Activist Calls for "National AIDS Strategy" in United States
Sheryl Lee Ralph Throws Down the Gauntlet
It's Time to Demand Respect for Black People With HIV, Activist Declares
AIDS 2008 Newsroom

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