Thursday, November 29, 2007

More Voices Speaking Volumes

All this week this forum has posted related items in conjunction with the commemeration of World AIDS Day 2007, December 1. I rememeber the day the Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive and the speculation that followed. I felt that his stepping to the plate and facing the dilemma was a testament of courage during a time when the disease was cloaked in enigma. Consequently, former National Basketball Association player Earvin "Magic" Johnson's wife, Cookie Johnson, on Wednesday said she will take a leading role in Magic Johnson's five-year, $60 million "I Stand With Magic" campaign to fight HIV/AIDS among blacks, USA Today reports (Sternberg, USA Today, 11/29). The campaign, launched by the Magic Johnson Foundation and the drug company Abbott, calls on the black community to increase HIV/AIDS awareness, be tested for HIV and practice safer sex. The campaign's goal is to reduce the number of new HIV cases in the black community by half in five years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/2).Magic Johnson, who has been HIV-positive for 16 years, as part of the campaign has traveled to 16 cities with large black populations to encourage people to be tested for HIV and learn about the disease. Cookie Johnson said she decided to participate in the campaign when she learned that HIV rates among black women are 20 times higher than among white women.Cookie Johnson said that her "mission" will be to speak to more than 1,000 black women nationwide and "empower" them to get tested and encourage their partners to be tested. "If your partner does not want to get tested, you have to say no" to sex, she added. Cookie Johnson also said that her experience in being married to someone living with HIV will give her the opportunity to tell women that HIV-positive people can lead "normal" lives (USA Today, 11/29).According to CDC estimates from 2005, blacks made up about 13% of the U.S. population but accounted for 49% of new AIDS diagnoses. For more information click to our online partner .

Election Watch 08:The 2008 Election year is shifting into high gear and candidates are all weighing in with health plans and white papers on the HIV/AIDS issue. Enter a new tool to educate yourself on exactly who is saying what and why by using The Web site -- launched by Housing Works, Gay Men's Health Crisis and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago -- is a nonpartisan voter and candidate education project. The site includes the results of a poll conducted among 16 presidential candidates about HIV/AIDS issues. It also includes GMHC's report about candidates' views on HIV/AIDS topics, as well as a chart that compares the candidates' HIV/AIDS-related voting record and positions. The site will track the candidates' positions up until the November 2008 election. Don't forget it's your responsibility to stay informed and updated. Why not check it out today!

T.D. Jakes urges Black Church to end silence on AIDS

The following commentary is a portion of a item that was featured on the Black AIDS Institute website. Best selling author and Pastor T.D. Jakes offers his unique prospective on the disease and the Black church's challenge to openly address this health crisis. I'm aware that Mr. Jakes, not unike may high profile individuals has detractors, however I felt that his opinion is worth airing on this forum as I attempt to offer a variety of viewpoints from a broad spectrum of vantage points. This portion of the article is unedited and you can access the entire composition at

The problem of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community has rapidly progressed beyond just an illness to a massive epidemic that is a national crisis. When reviewing the magnitude of the numbers connected to this deadly disease, you only need to take a glance at a few of them to completely take your breath away.
•While only 12 percent of the total American population, African-Americans make up 37 percent of total American AIDS cases.
•More than 50 percent of newly reported HIV infections in the United States are among African-Americans.
•Among African-American men aged 25 through 44 years, AIDS is the single largest cause of death.
These numbers, should give everyone -- not just African-Americans - great pause for concern.
I believe that the African-American church, long a symbol and source of information and education to the African-American community, has for too long, remained silent about this challenge.
To be sure our churches -- mine included -- have done some notable works individually. The problem remains that this is not a foe we can defeat individually.
It will take the collective might of both the church universally committed and the implementation of a comprehensive agenda that includes medical professionals, political might, social services and personal responsibility to overcome this dreaded disease.
That collective pool has not been enacted previously and all of us have suffered from it.
Recently I was honored to co-chair a national discussion on HIV/AIDS with Dr. Calvin Butts from the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York. At the African-American Clergy Conclave held in New York October 8-9, a congregation of clergy, government officials, healthcare agencies and leading educators came together to develop policy for legislation to support and aggressively end the spread of HIV/AIDS.
This flame of a more comprehensive and unified strategy is fueled by the commitment made by the Congressional Black Caucus to present a bill to fund a program that is designed to meet the unique needs of our community as we have unique challenges and issues, which previous efforts have failed to address.
We all must support the CBC in this endeavor to pass the proposed legislation to fund this critical need for efforts aimed at our community. These funds would include all of our tax dollars that have been directed elsewhere while we die.
The church was not designed to find cures, introduce legislation, change government policy or produce the kind of financial strength we need for research, care and prevention. But, the church can contribute to the solution and partner with existing institutions to do a much better job than it has done alone.
There are many churches who have not responded at all. But I hope they will also be inspired to do something as we all ramp up to do more.
Here are a few reachable goals that most churches can accomplish to make up for our late start:
•We can be a voice and support advocacy related to HIV/AIDS.
•We can challenge the government to set aside more funding for this initiative.
•We can challenge our members to get tested.
•We can make educational material available through our counseling and medical ministries.
•We can dispel the myths and fears.
Many pastors are overwhelmed, intimidated and ill equipped to do all that could be done. I also feel grossly under equipped for the daunting task before us. But if we do not stand up, then who will? And, yes, I am saddened that the black community has little more than the church to draw from as a lightening rod to motivate national dialog.
I agreed with Sen. Hillary Clinton when asked at a recent debate her thoughts on the fight to end HIV/AIDS. She said, “If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death of White women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.”

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