HIV/AIDS Activists: "Let's Talk About Sex, It's Killing Us"

At a Sept. 10 health summit at Community Hospital of San Bernardino, HIV/AIDS activist Carla Bailey told attendees "the HIV fight begins and ends with us."

"De-nial is not just a river in Egypt," said Bailey. "We know firsthand what HIV/AIDS is doing to the black community. We've buried countless family members, neighbors, and friends, yet every day people get infected with the virus. How do you tackle this epidemic when a lot of people are reluctant and embarrassed about discussing AIDS?"

The 3rd annual HIV/AIDS Health Summit, titled "What's Killing Us?", was sponsored by B.A.S.I.A (Brothers and Sisters in Action). More than 100 health professionals and persons living with the disease attended the forum.

As a volunteer and full-time activist, Bailey travels the country educating young people about HIV/AIDS. She has addressed women's conferences, church groups, and legislators, and has appeared on NPR, C-SPAN, Women's Network TV, and other media outlets.

According to Bailey, two huge HIV myths persist in the African-American community. The first is there is a vaccine or cure for HIV/AIDS, "but they're not telling us because it's a government plot to kill black people. The second is, 'you can take medicine for HIV and look like Magic Johnson.'"

"There is a climate of ignorance that blames everything from government conspiracy to punishment from God," said Dr. Wilbert C. Jordan, a Los Angeles-based physician and a leading researcher on HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. The best way to overcome myths and misinformation is for blacks to educate themselves about the virus, its consequences, and the resources available, he said.