Buffalo's MOCHA Center and AIDS Family Services were among the 1,500 organizations in roughly 500 cities that participated in Monday's observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. AFS and MOCHA sponsored a community event at Asbury Hall in Babeville that reinforced the message that African Americans must combat the HIV epidemic hitting their community by getting educated, tested, treated, and involved.
Randolph Mack was one of the event's guest speakers. Mack said he learned of his HIV-positive status in 1984. When he received the news, he went into a deep depression. "I thought my future was over, but thank God I'm still here," he said.
Mack, who has a master's degree in social work, said that eradicating AIDS requires people, particularly young people, to tap into their self-esteem and self-love to make the decision to stay healthy and safe and to pursue longevity.
Patricia Jeffrey, a recovering addict, agreed. She found out she had HIV when she went to get tested to get free tickets to a Tyler Perry movie. She got infected through unprotected sex with a man known to have the virus. "People told me he had HIV, but I didn't listen," she said. "Condoms were not part of the program."
But instead of giving up, Jeffrey got clean and got her act together. "I'm getting educated. I can live with this," she said. And she has a message for people engaging in behaviors that put them at risk for HIV. "Please don't do what I did," she said. "Wear a condom."