"Don’t do anything that might give you this disease of AIDS. Find out how the illness infects people and then follow the right path ... I am here hurting maybe because someone needed to use needles to feel better. Please have the courage to share yourselves instead."
-- Gail Farrow, in a letter written to her four sons before her death
AIDS is disproportionately affecting African Americans -- and the gap is only widening. The African American community critically needs to galvanize its leadership.
The Crisis: The HIV Epidemic Among African Americans
By the year 2000, an African American will be nine times more likely to have an AIDS diagnosis than a nonAfrican American.
In October 1996, more than one hundred African American leaders convened at the first Leading for Life summit to respond to the AIDS epidemic among African Americans.
Summit participants discussed a number of challenges in the areas of communications, prevention, public policy, and services and care.
What You Can Do Nationally
Summit participants proposed a number of initiatives for national leaders to undertake in the areas of communications, prevention, public policy, and services and care.
What You Can Do Locally
Everyone can make a contribution to ending the epidemic among African Americans, whether on a personal or an institutional level. Here are a few ideas for action on a local level that can be taken immediately.
The Campaign Launch
The African American community requires commitment and funding to prevent the spread of HIV and to care for those affected by AIDS.
The Call for Action
Summit participants adopted a national Call for Action during the October summit.
This list of organizations may be helpful to local and national leaders when taking action.
The Congressional Black Caucus
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus must be urged to increase their efforts to combat AIDS in African American communities.
The Harvard AIDS Institute cosponsored the Leading for Life summit along with the National Minority AIDS Council; the Balm in Gilead, Inc.; and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro- American Research at Harvard University. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation provided primary funding for the Leading for Life summit. Additional support was provided by the American Express Company; the Charles Hotel; Glaxo Wellcome Inc.; Merck & Co., Inc.; and the Metropolitan Life Foundation.
In addition, Porter/Novelli provided guidance; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided research and epidemiologic assistance; Aaron Foster and Marcello Pagano of the Harvard School of Public Health provided epidemiologic assistance; and a number of African American faculty members at Harvard University served as advisors. Finally, the organizers would like to thank all the participants of the first Leading for Life summit.
For more information about Leading for Life, contact Tonya Adams, Leading for Life Outreach Coordinator, Harvard AIDS Institute, 651 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115; phone: 617-432-4400; fax: 617-432-4545.
Photo credit: David Binder
The Harvard AIDS Institute produced this report. © President and Fellows of Harvard University, 1997