As cases of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community continue to grow, a Tallahassee educational organization is set to strengthen capacity for HIV prevention.
The Minority Alliance for Advocating Community Awareness and Action Inc. (MAACA) will host the Black Leadership Conference on Thursday for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
The theme for this year’s awareness day is “I am My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS.” The event will focus on HIV testing, treatment, statistics, prevention and community mobilization initiatives for the African-American community.
Sylvia Hubbard, executive director and founder of MAACA, said her fight for the cause is not from a direct connection but from her work in the field since 1998.
“We have done capacity building from Mobile, Ala., to Jacksonville to Thomasville, working with churches to create health ministries, which later incorporated national black HIV/AIDS awareness,” Hubbard said.
MAACA began an annual youth conference in 2011. But Hubbard said she and the Florida Department of Health decided to do an adult conference that youth can also attend.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African-Americans represent 14 percent of the U.S. population, but they account for almost half of new HIV infections. Gay and bisexual men are most affected, followed by heterosexual women in the African-American community.
Alyssa Crawford, a third-year pre-nursing student from Ft. Lauderdale and junior attendant at Florida A&M, said the black community needs to be more in tune about the the seriousness of the disease.
“When it comes to World AIDS Day, everybody wants to wear a red ribbon,” Crawford said. “However, people don’t care anymore. They only care when it hits home, but then it’s too late.”
Crawford, an activist who will speak at the event, believes if more people are open with their positive status, it would change the mindset of many.
“HIV is not to be feared but more understood,” she said. “I became public on FAMU’s campus about my positive status almost two years ago. I thought I was going to be scrutinized, but I was beyond amazed by the support I received. By me being public, I have changed the mindset of my peers on campus.”
Crawford also said the reason why her story is different from most is because she was born with HIV.
According to the CDC, prevention methods to reduce risk of infection include abstinence, using a condom when having sex and talking to people about HIV.
The conference, which begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m., will be held at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites on Graves Road. Breakfast and lunch will be served.
The Florida Department of Health, CDC, Helping Handz Inc., Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention and the National Minority AIDS Council are sponsors and partners for the event.
For more information about MAACA and the event, visit www.maaction.org. For further information about HIV/AIDS, call the Florida Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS (352-2437).